French kissed: Tough verdict for Kerviel

Paris, France: French rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel will spend, if he loses all appeals, three years in prison and the rest of his life repaying his employer, Société Générale, for the €4.9 billion ($6.8 billion) loss the bank incurred when unwinding his unauthorized positions in early 2008. “By his deliberate actions, he put in peril the existence of the bank that employed 140,000 people, and whose future was threatened,” explained the judge who read the sentence on October 5th.

Kerviel’s defense lawyer, Olivier Metzner, said that the former trader was “revolted that those who created him put all the responsibility on him,” adding that he will appeal such an “unreasonable” and “unacceptable” sentence.

As usual, Kerviel seemed in a somber mood when entering the French court. He refused to comment after the verdict was handed down.

Though he remains free during the appeal, his mood is unlikely to lighten : he was hoping, as he wrote in his book published in May 2010, to see “truth” prevail and his “honor” reinstated with the verdict.

Today, it is the bank, and the banking system in general, that triumphed. To such a point that even experts sympathetic to the banking establishment think that the verdict is, indeed, excessive.

Social networks and web sites shared this view, and clearly stand on Kerviel’s side. One started a group called “let’s help Jérôme Kerviel find €4.9 billion.” So far, however, few donations have poured in.

The 33 year old Frenchman, described as a “terrorist” by Société Générale’s CEO during the trial, did not manage to convince the judge that he took unauthorized positions solely to make money for the bank. He did not get the huge bonus he was hoping for. And now, he is literally wiped out.

A new book, published today and written by Hugues Le Bret, who was Société Générale’s communication director when the “Kerviel’s affair” was made public, might shed some light on the bank’s operations during this heady period. Le Bret announced today that he was quitting his job as CEO of Boursorama (a subsidiary of Société Générale) for “personal reasons.”
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