Payback time for Société Générale after Jérôme Kerviel scandal

Jérôme Kerviel must pay back Société Générale the amount his rogue trading lost the bank, but that may take a while

France's most notorious rogue trader, Jérôme Kerviel, is feeling a little sore about his impending three-year jail sentence for running up losses of €4.9bn (£4.2bn) at Société Générale. The Gallic version of Nick Leeson says he identifies with Gordon Gekko, the jailed antihero of the 1987 movie Wall Street: "For fun, I often think of Gordon Gekko's piece of advice: 'If you need a friend, get a dog'. Unfortunately, that speaks to my own experience."

In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Kerviel repeatedly insisted his superiors knew precisely what he was up to as he ran up vast bets on German stocks and US sub-prime loans. The 33-year-old, bless him, claims to have been stunned when he was found guilty of forgery, unauthorised computer use and breach of trust: "It pulled my legs right our from under me, it was so unexpected. At first, I was paralysed."

Kerviel reckons his reckless trades were far from unique: "Nobody knows everything that's hidden in the balance sheets of banks. In fact, they are completely impenetrable. To invest €150m, it only takes a second. For €1bn, you need four seconds. Things are so quick with computers that you lose any sense of the amounts involved."

He's going to have to get his head around the amount involved now, though. He's been ordered by a judge to pay back the money he lost on SocGen's behalf. On his present salary of €2,300 a month as a computer consultant, that'll take 177,000 years.


Andrew Clark

The GuardianTramp

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