Rogue French Trader Jérôme Kerviel Ordered to Pay Back the $6.7 Billion He Lost

By
Also guilty of being roguishly handsome. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Jérôme Kerviel, the rogue trader who almost brought down Société Générale, was ordered to pay back $6.7 billion, the entire amount the French bank lost in unwinding his trades from January, 2008. He was also convicted of breach of trust, sentenced to at least three years in prison, and barred from finance for life. Wait, is that a punitive option? Because we have some names we'd like to suggest. The bank said the sum was "symbolic" and didn't expect to be paid back. The symbolism in question being a giant arrow aimed at Kerveil's head that says: Don't look at us, it's this guy's fault. France's banking commission has already fined Société Générale $5.5 million for inadequate supervision. Meanwhile, French populists have taken up Kerveil's cause:


In the aftermath of the scandal, Mr. Kerviel spent five weeks in pretrial detention and became something of a French folk hero. Much was made of the fact that someone from such a modest background — his mother was a hairdresser, his late father a metal-shop teacher — could dupe so many of his bosses, many of them well-bred graduates of France’s best schools.

Except instead of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, the rich maybe knew he was sort of stealing, but let him because they wanted to get richer.

Kerviel's lawyers argued that their client's higher-ups tacitly encouraged his activities, at least while it was working. He had been betting outside his limit for more than two years. In late 2007, the bank booked $1.9 billion in profit from his unauthorized deals. But the court ruled that that did not absolve Kerviel of the blame.


“The lack of vigilance by the bank in monitoring the only existing limits, acting as alert signs, hardly exempted Jerome Kerviel from his duty to inform his hierarchy of the reality of his excesses or to come back within the limits imposed,” Judge Pauthe said. “By his deliberate actions, he put in peril the existence of the bank that employed 140,000 people, of which he was a part, and whose future he mortgaged.”

Rogue Trader at Société Générale Gets Jail Term [NYT]