SocGen sulks as Kerviel walks

Lock up your equity derivatives: Jerome Kerviel has been released from prison and is back on the streets...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A French appeal court has decided that the 31-year-old rogue trader, who defrauded Societe Generale out of a whopping €5bn and almost toppled the entire bank, should be released on bail as the investigation into his activities continues.

Kerviel has been holed up in le nick for over a month now, accused of breach of trust, forging documents and hacking into the bank’s computers. SocGen had gone to court to get him jailed, arguing that if he was free to walk the streets he might interfere with the investigation. However, the court seems to have decided that it would be difficult for Kerviel to collude with accomplices, since as far as anyone can see he didn’t actually have any (one of his colleagues was briefly detained last week, but was released without charge the same day).

Of course it’s probably in SocGen’s interests to suggest that Kerviel must have been working with others, because it slightly mitigates the bank’s embarrassment that one junior trader could upset the apple cart quite so spectacularly. It’s already rushed through an internal investigation, which concluded that its risk management controls were not thorough enough. No kidding.

Kerviel, of course, claims that the bank knew perfectly well what he was doing, but turned a blind eye to it as long as he was making money. And it does admittedly seem a bit far-fetched that he could take equity derivative positions totalling €50bn without any of his superiors actually noticing. It certainly wouldn’t get through our expenses department.

However, Jerome’s suffering will continue for a while yet, since the appeal court has placed some serious constraints on his liberte. Kerviel is not allowed to leave Paris, speak to anyone else at SocGen or go anywhere near a trading computer, and he must also report to a police station once a week.

On the plus side, at least he’ll now be free to get himself an agent. Those exclusive interviews, endorsement deals and movie rights sales won’t just sign themselves...

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