One of the hallmarks of good systems design is that a well-designed program has safeguards built in to prevent human users from making idiotic mistakes. For a program that assists with an important activity, such as bond trading, this is especially important. Even the most sophisticated users, after all, can make mistakes.
A Japanese unit of Switzerland's UBS AG said its computer systems mistakenly placed a $31 billion order for convertible bonds of videogame maker Capcom Co on Wednesday, but it was able to cancel the trade at no cost.
UBS Securities Japan said that it had intended to place a 30 million yen order to simultaneously buy and sell the bonds in a so-called cross-trade but that its computer system placed a 3 trillion yen ($31 billion) order instead.
While the botched trade was the biggest in monetary terms in the history of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, it was placed through an off-hours trading system, traders said it had no real impact on financial markets and it was cancelled at no cost to the Swiss Bank.
While Capcom, known for producing the Street Fighter and Resident Evil games, is probably a better investment than UBS at this point, $31 billion is many times the worth of the company. Had the trade gone forward, UBS's tax-evading clients would have had yet another reason to sue the bank.