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Kerviel a SocGen Creation, Not Fraudster, Court Told

Jerome Kerviel, former Societe Generale SA trader, arrives at the courthouse for the final day of his trial. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg
Jerome Kerviel, former Societe Generale SA trader, arrives at the courthouse for the final day of his trial. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Jerome Kerviel was a “creation” of Societe Generale SA and should be cleared of charges related to the bank’s 4.9 billion-euro ($6 billion) loss, the former trader’s lawyer told a Paris court today.

“Jerome Kerviel is not a fraudster,” said Olivier Metzner, delivering closing arguments for his 33-year-old client. He “was trained, formatted by Societe Generale, reformatted if you will. Jerome Kerviel is nothing but the creation of Societe Generale.”

Kerviel is accused of abuse of trust, faking documents and hacking the bank’s computers. The trading loss occurred as the bank unwound 50 billion euros in positions he’d built up by January 2008 and concealed with faked hedges and forged orders. The court will give its judgment Oct. 5, Judge Dominique Pauthe said at the end of the trial.

“Everything that he did was seen, known and if not encouraged, allowed,” Metzner said, arguing that while Kerviel admitted to the deeds upon which the charges are based, they didn’t qualify as crimes. “That is why I plead for a dismissal.”

Metzner acknowledged that there were grounds for the charge of hacking, defined as wrongfully entering information into a computer system. He turned responsibility for Kerviel’s actions back on the bank. “The bank gave him tacit accord,” he said.

Metzner began his arguments with a populist tone, describing Kerviel as “a young man from Brittany” who arrived at the bank, “into a world where numbers had no meaning.”

Black Suit

After Metzner concluded, Kerviel, clad in a black suit and black shirt with no tie, was called before the panel of three judges overseeing the trial. He was asked if he had anything to add. “Nothing,” he replied.

The trial has featured more than 30 witnesses, including Kerviel’s bosses, colleagues and bank controllers. Daniel Bouton, Societe Generale’s chief executive officer at the time of the loss, called the former trader’s conduct a “catastrophe” for the bank.

Kerviel faces as long as five years in prison and a 375,000-euro fine.

Prosecutor Jean-Michel Aldebert has recommended he be sentenced to five years in jail, with one year suspended, calling Kerviel a “destructive genius.”

The bank asked to be awarded the 4.9 billion euros it lost in damages, with lawyer Jean Veil saying “we could have asked for much more.”

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