Greenpeace has lost €3.8m (£3m) of public donations on a series of blundering currency bets that went wrong, the charity has admitted.
The loss will see a hire freeze across the organisation and delay a new internet database and portal that was being built, but bosses insist no frontline projects, such as its campaign in Greenland and the Arctic, will be hit.
A senior worker in its financial unit, which is responsible for exchanging donations into local currencies where it needs to be spent, was sacked after he failed to follow guidelines for making the bets. However, the problems were only noticed once it was too late.
Greenpeace said there was no suggestion the employee benefited financially or fraud was involved, adding that it was an "honest mistake" by the worker, who had several years' experience in the financial sector.
An external audit will also take place and the charity said it would involve authorities if it turned up anything unusual.
Pascal Husting, International programme director at Greenpeace, told the Independent: "He didn't fully understand the nature of the operations. He was a very senior member of our finance unit who should have known what he was doing but he made a serious misjudgment."
He explained that the unit, which controlled €72.9m (£58m) last year, was expected to set up contracts to hedge against currency fluctuations. Greenpeace receives a disproportionate amount of donations from Europe compared with where it spends its funds. The unit, based in Amsterdam and employing 15 staff, exchanges the funds into local currencies where it is distributed. It has been busier in the past few years, where more money has needed to be exchanged into currencies, particularly in South America and parts of Asia.
However, the employee set up too many contracts, betting that the euro would not rise last year. When the euro strengthened at the end of the year and the contracts came to an end, the unit lost the cash.