PARIS – Jerome Kerviel, the 33 year old rogue trader from Société Générale, will know early in the morning Oct. 5 whether or not he will spend a maximum of five years in prison —as requested by the public prosecutor — if he is found guilty of all charges against him, and pay a €375,000 ($487,000) fine. Of three charges against him, forgery, computer abuse and breach of trust, the Frenchman pleaded guilty to only one: computer abuse.
The verdict might put an end to the saga that entranced France for months, starting in January 2008, when Société Générale revealed that it had to unwind positions taken by its trader and lost €4.9 billion ($6.37 billion) in the process.
The two and half week trial that took place in June 2010 was turned into a drama and a trial against the “system” by Kerviel defense lawyers, in a country where big money is always suspicious. “How could the bank allow such massive positions to be taken?” his defense lawyer asked.
Though the young trader admitted that he had built unauthorized positions reaching up to €50 billion ($65 billion), he said that his bosses not only knew about it, but more than that, encouraged him to take risks to make money.
In the words of his defense team, Kerviel was just a poor boy from the French western province of Brittany who moved to Paris after a scant academic education and then went on to try and prove he could be someone in the high flying world of international finance. For his lawyer, Olivier Metzner, he was just a passionate, loyal young man. "Who are you, Société Générale? Who are you? How do you create men like this?" he said as the trial drew to a close. He then went on to ask for his acquittal on the charges of breach of trust and forgery.
The public prosecutor begged to differ: “Kerviel duped his bosses, his coworkers and his friends,” he said. “There is a need to stop discrediting banks,” he concluded.
When asked if he had something to add, Kerviel said no.Whatever the verdict, there is still a chance that France will stay divided as it did when Société Générale’s losses became public. Some citizens even congratulated the young man who almost brought down the bank.