Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Jerome Kerviel's 177,000 years to clear debt, and no sick days

Ewan McGregor played rogue trader Nick Leeson in a film about the downfall of the Barings Bank bad boy. But who could play the French equivalent, Jerome Kerviel, in the inevitable movie adaptation of his misdemeanours at Societe Generale, France's second biggest bank?

Judge Dominique Pauthe yesterday handed the Societe Generale trader five years in prison, two years suspended, and a fine of €4.9bn (the biggest damages sum ever owed by an individual in France) following his conviction for forgery, breach of trust and computer abuse. He will need a whopping 177,000 years to repay the sum based on his current salary as an IT consultant.

His risky trading created one of the biggest financial scandals in recent years and Judge Pauthe dubbed him a cool and callous criminal for his financial faux pas.

Following the harsh sentence, Monsieur Kerviel's laywer said: "I hope you all will donate a euro to Jerome Kerviel."

He added: "When you have employees or staff members, you don't check in the evening to make sure they're not leaving with the cutlery or your belongings - you trust them."

It's unlikely Kerviel will be able to pay his fine but that seems beside the point - the judge, and indeed, SocGen (as they are known in France) will have wanted their errant ex- employee to face the shame of a hefty punitive fine.

Unsurprisingly, an indignant Kerviel has spoken out against the punishment, saying he is "the only one paying" for the sins of many. "I really get the feeling that they wanted to make me pay for everyone else."

He has repeated his defence that his bosses were happy to indulge his dubious trading so long as it yielded returns.

Nick Leeson has voiced surprise that wrongdoing on the scale of Kerviel can happen - Leeson's trading supposedly ushered in a new world of accountability which would prevent a re-run of Barings.

Commentators have come out on the side of Kerviel, particularly the ruling that he must repay the amount he lost when other senior bankers accused of misleading investors get off scot-free.

According to the Guardian, Kerviel was "a reserved trader with a quiet social life and a self-confessed passion for the 'intoxification' of money making". Now that he is making €2,300 per month at a small IT consultancy in Paris, he may have to seek "intoxification" elsewhere.

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