Kerviel trial: “An old lady was assaulted”

Now that the hearings are over for former trader Jerome Kerviel's appeal trial in Paris, it was time today for the lawyers to take the floor. The first ones to plead were Société Générale's counsels, Jean Reinhart and Jean Veil.

“Four years, five months and one day after the earthquake that shook the towers of the bank building, it is time to make sense of all these excesses,” Reinhart started, with some gratuitous theatricality.  “This is the trial of an old lady (Société Générale) who was assaulted by a man, not a wild boy, but a man,” he continued, a wee bit too emotional, this time.

No doubt, from the bank's point-of-view, the victim is the venerable Société Génerale. And the order handed to Kerviel in his first 2010 trial to symbolically repay the full amount of the loss (€4.9 billion, or $6.4 billion) suffered when his €50 billon positions were finally unwound in early 2008 was to be taken not as repayment, but as damages. Not only did the bank's balance sheet and stock price suffer, but its reputation was tarnished, both lawyers insisted.

Société Générale never changed tack: The rogue trader knowingly tried to fool his superiors with fake documents to hide his huge, over-the-limit positions. And Société Générale couldn't have known... Reinhart went on to (again) describe the rogue trader as a man with a multifaceted psyche, sometimes “nice and generous,” sometimes out of touch with reality. And continued (again!) with a summary of the events that led to the huge losses. As he said, we didn't learn anything new during this appeal trial. Not with his pleading either.

His partner, Jean Veil, didn't do much better. Kerviel's main motive was money, he insisted, suggesting that the Frenchman wanted to help his brother in need of cash... Well, we had never heard that one... “Kerviel's affair is not a symptom nor a stigma of the financial crisis, it is simply a lamentable story of a rogue trader,” he concluded.

How boring can you get?

Let's hope that Kerviel's lawyer, David Koubbi, will enthrall the crowd in the days to come.

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