Kerviel appeal pits bank culture against individual responsibility

“Monsieur Kerviel!, Monsieur Kerviel,”  50 reporters and half a dozen TV cameramen tried to draw French trader Jérôme Kerviel's attention on Monday morning as he walked into the Paris Court of Appeal. Found guilty for the €4.9 billion ($6.4 billion) loss suffered by Société Générale in 2008, the young man is hoping to get the 2010 verdict overturned.

Though Mireille Filippini, the no-nonsense head of the Appeal Court, opened the trial by separating the two parties – Kerviel's lawyers and Société Générale's counsels – on various benches amid confusion, it was obvious that Indian wrestling was going to be the name of the game, under the venerable gilded ceiling of the Paris court, featuring a painting of a naked woman – representing justice, most likely ...

 I am not responsible 

“Why do you appeal,” asked judge Mireille Filippini to Kerviel at the very beginning of the new trial. In a dark blue suit and tieless, the grumpy young trader simply muttered that he was “not responsible” for the loss suffered by his former employer while unwinding his trades, and that his superiors knew about his fraudulent activities.

In fact, though Kerviel's new lawyer, David Koubbi, promised new arguments, each party seemed to stick to old stuff. Basically, it was “collective culture of faking trades” vs. “individual intent to deceive.”

“I put fictitious trades in the system to hide my over-the-limits positions because that's what I had learned to do as a middle office employee and then as an assistant trader at Société Générale,” claimed Kerviel, while SocGen lawyers tried to focus on his keen awareness of limits set for his activities and on the notion that he clearly decided to trample them and hide his deeds.

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