As Jerome Kerviel's appeal trial draws to a close, the rogue trader might already wonder if it was all worth it. Found guilty of breach of trust, computer abuse and forgery in 2010, the Frenchman was sentenced to a three-year prison term and ordered to repay the full amount of the loss (€4.9 billion, or $6.4 billion) the bank incurred while unwinding the trades in early 2008. His sentence was suspended, pending the appeal. His last chance to see it overturned comes on Thursday, when his lawyer will get the final say and plead for an acquittal.
Today was the attorney general's day. For three hours, Dominique Gaillardot ploughed through a severe indictment. And finally required that the rogue trader be sentenced to five years of prison and barred from any activity linked to a trading desk in the future. It is not within his responsibilities to ask for damages, the Attorney general said, but he went on to specify that, according to current legal provisions, the Court could see fit that Société Générale be compensated for the damages it suffered. Damages must be proven, however, and the jurisprudence might evolve, he added, leaving the door open to some change, and some hope for Kerviel.
But really, was it all worth it for the rogue trader? It seems somehow that the appeal trial was useless, as Dominique Gaillardot only based his indictment on data from the first trial. Maybe because “no witness supported the defense thesis that Société Générale “knew” what Kerviel was actually doing,” he stated. He spent most of his time pointing out the contradictions in the trader's defense. Because Kerviel maintains that the bank “knew” what he was doing (ie: hiding his real positions) “then why hide everything?” asked the attorney general ironically. Dominique Gaillardot repeatedly underlined the fact that Kerviel had willful intent when he faked emails and used false counterparts for his trades, as when he made (false) charts for warrants and other instruments, in order to fool his superiors. “Do you think Société Générale would have spent so much time looking at charts and emails and reports if it knew that all of it was false," he boomed.
Calling Kerviel a “manipulator” and a “pervert," the attorney general went on to say that the trader “shouldn't see his responsibility alleviated simply because it came to light that risk-control at Société Générale was less than perfect. Nor should Kerviel's responsibility be reduced because of any specific financial environment,” he added. “Neither the financial system nor any bank need somebody like Mr. Kerviel,” he concluded.
Bowing his head, Kerviel was taking notes for the whole time the attorney general was painstakingly going through his speech, spiced with words like “pending futures” — pronounced “paindingue” or “options” — pronounced “opshions.” No doubt that he will give them to help his lawyer tomorrow.