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Timeline: French rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel’s endless legal saga

Thomas Samson, AFP | Former trader Jérôme Kerviel photographed on April 15, 2015

In January 2008 French bank trader Jérôme Kerviel was accused of the biggest fraud in financial history. Eight years later “the man who lost 5 billion” is back in court. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at his rollercoaster ride through the courts.


Kerviel this week will ask French judges to review both the case that found him guilty in 2010 of trying to conceal risky market trades that brought one of France’s biggest banks, Société Générale, to the verge of collapse, and the sentence ordering him to repay 4.9 billion euros in damages.

The court dates come amid alleged revelations that could help Kerviel claim he is innocent. The former trader has never denied betting up to €5 billion of Société Générale’s cash, but has always maintained the bank knew what he was doing.

In audio excerpts leaked to the press over the weekend, former Paris judge Chantal de Leiris is heard telling a police officer in June 2015 that “Société Générale knew… it’s obvious” in regard to Kerviel’s risky trading.

The bank quickly reacted to the leaked tape on Sunday, denouncing it as “media manipulation”. In its statement, the banking giant reminded the press that France’s justice system had “found Jérôme Kerviel guilty on three separate occasions”.

Kerviel has been lambasted by some as an arrogant trader who got what he deserved, but defended by others as a pawn in a reckless financial system fuelled by greed. At the start of what could become a brand new chapter in the Kerviel story, FRANCE 24 takes a look at 10 key dates in the contentious affair.

January 24, 2008 – Société Générale reveals Jérôme Kerviel’s name to the public, accusing the 31-year-old trader of losing 4.9 billion euros in assets after “disguising his positions thanks to an elaborate scheme of fictitious transactions”. The bank fires Kerviel and sues him.

February 8, 2008 – French judges put Kerviel into police custody for 40 days. He has now been interrogated by police on ten separate occasions.

July 4, 2008 – France’s banking commission slaps Société Générale with a 4-million-euro fine for control failures that allowed Kerviel's activity to go undetected..

August 31, 2009 – French prosecutors formally charge Kerviel with forgery, breach of trust and entering fraudulent data into computers.

October 5, 2010 – A French court finds Kerviel guilty of the charges brought against him, sentencing him to five years in prison, two of which are suspended, and to pay 4.9 billion euros in damages.

April 20, 2012 – Kerviel’s lawyer launches a legal complaint against Société Générale, accusing the bank of doctoring the recordings of his alleged confessions. French judges dismiss the complaint.

October 24, 2012 – An appeals court upholds the 2010 guilty verdict against Kerviel.

March 5, 2014 – Kerviel sets off on a march from Rome to Paris, a trek he calls a protest “against the tyranny of the markets”, after meeting with Pope Francis in February at the Vatican.

April 22, 2014 – Kerviel once again attempts to take Société Generale to court, this time accusing the bank of suborning witness Eric Cordelle, his former supervisor. Kerviel claims Cordelle was given 1 million euros to testify in favour of the bank.

June 25, 2015 – A legal probe determines that recordings of conversations between Kerviel and his bosses in 2008 had not been tampered with, contrary to claims made by the trader in April 2012 and again in June 2013.

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