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Business France

Suspected French rogue trader blames bank for losses

Video by Clovis CASALI

Latest update : 2009-02-07

Jerôme Kerviel, the trader blamed for a €4.9 billion loss at French bank Société Générale, has spoken out in public for the first time ahead of his trial. In an interview on French radio, he blamed the bank for encouraging him to take risks.

AFP - Alleged rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, accused of losing his bank 4.9 billion euros (7.1 billion dollars), blamed his bosses on Friday in an emotional radio interview ahead of his trial.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the investigation into the Societe Generale scandal, Kerviel insisted that he could not have gambled away so much without his superiors' knowledge.

"Everything was visible. I took my positions in front of everyone, in front of managers. I wanted to earn money for my bank, all my operations were seen, monitored and controlled," he told RTL radio.

"Do you honestly believe a 15 billion euro operation could go unnoticed and that the bank would ask no questions. For my part, I wasn't hiding myself. I was at the middle of the desk and everyone could see me work."

Kerviel and his former assistant, Thomas Mougard, are expected to face trial over charges that they concealed a series of risky derivatives trades from his bosses and ending up exposing SocGen to massive losses.

At the time, Kerviel's losses amounted to one of the biggest rogue trading scandals in history and shook confidence in French banks, but many banks have since written off far greater sums following the sub-prime debt meltdown.

Judges Renaud van Ruymbeke et Francoise Desset have concluded their enquiry, and state prosecutors are studying their report before deciding whether or not to recommend that the 32-year-old go to court.

Kerviel is accused of breach of trust, fabricating documents and illegally accessing computers. Mougard, 24, was charged last year with "complicity in introducing false data into a computer system."

The bank -- which is suing its former employee -- denies Kerviel's claims that managers knew of his trades, and the judges signalled during their investigation that they regarded Kerviel as an unreliable witness.

In his RTL interview, Kerviel alleged that other SocGen traders also broke the bank's rules designed to prevent such excesses, although he said he would not betray his former colleagues by naming them.

"One thing you have to keep in mind, is that all of our acts and gestures were overseen in real time. We are all next to each other, and we can hear exactly what each other are saying on the phone," Kerviel said.

"You couldn't do anything without being seen."

Kerviel admitted that he had made some "bloody stupid mistakes" but said that his supervisors had encouraged him and that on a good day he could make up to a million euro profit for the firm through his trading.

"The first trade that I made was for 200,000 euros. My hand was trembling -- that's almost the price of a house. After a week I had forgotten the fear," he explained, describing his career before his arrest.

"I allowed myself to fall into a self-perpetuating spiral onto which my bosses poured oil so that it turned at top speed. At no point did anyone yell 'stop'. I would have liked someone to say: 'Enough with this stupidity'."

Kerviel repeated a longstanding charge that SocGen had "pulled the strings" in the investigation in order to leave him to carry the can for the bank.

The trader became a minor celebrity in France when the scandal broke, seen as a hero by some anti-capitalist activists, but in the interview he insisted he was a private man and begged to be left alone by press and public.

"It would suit me just fine to not be followed, that my life not be laid out in the newspapers, that utter lies not be written about me, that things I said not be stolen, that photos of me not be stolen," he complained.

"It's not in my nature to express myself, to expose myself. I just want to be forgotten."

Date created : 2009-02-06

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