Convicted of rogue trading? Take a hike!
That's Jérôme Kerviel's strategy, anyway. The former Société Générale trader, who racked up 5 billion euros' worth of unauthorized trading losses and was sentenced to three years in prison back in 2010, is hoping to clear his name by walking about 900 miles from Rome to Paris, hanging out with Pope Francis, and charming Carabinieri officers with his trading-floor tales along the way.
Bloomberg joined Kerviel for six kilometers of his walk, which apparently isn't so much a forgiveness pilgrimage as a "do a li'l soul-cleansing while still denying everything" pre-verdict walkabout. Kerviel will hear the results of his appeal this week; he faces three years in prison if it's denied.
Kerviel says his walk is a personal journey that’s aimed at publicizing Pope Francis’s November attack on the “tyranny” of financial markets. The Pope has criticized modern capitalism for its “idolatry of money.”
“I was both a participant and a victim of the system he denounced,” Kerviel said. “His message spoke to me.”
He won’t say what was discussed privately with the Pope after he attended the regular Wednesday audience.
“That’s between me, my lawyer and the Holy Father,” said Kerviel, who described himself as believer, but a non-practicing Catholic.
Kerviel, who is using a GPS guide for his quixotic trip to Paris, has been covering up to 30 kilometers a day, borrowing money from friends, and staying in "homes or cheap hotels" along the way. He had one run-in with the Italian police, known as the Carabinieri, but Bloomberg reports that the officers who stopped him "were so amused by his tale of losing billions at a bank they let him off without a fine."
It sounds like a Lifetime movie! And it'll probably have a third-act denouement, too – Kerviel's appeal could be denied as soon as Wednesday, meaning that Italian authorities could arrest him on the road and end his walk prematurely.
"I won’t resist if Italian authorities come for me,” Kerviel told Bloomberg. “I just hope I’m allowed to finish what I’ve started.”
*Correction: This post previously stated Kerviel was convicted of insider trading.