SocGen Trader Kerviel Loses Appeal Against Jail

Published October 24, 2012

| Reuters

Former Societe Generale trader Jerome Kerviel lost his appeal on Wednesday against a three-year prison sentence for his role in France's biggest rogue-trading scandal.

A Paris appeals court ruled that the 35-year-old ex-trader, who had fought to overturn a 2010 conviction for taking huge, risky bets that cost SocGen 4.9 billion euros ($6.35 billion), was responsible

It said he must also repay the bank the billions lost, potentially a life-time claim on part of his earnings.

"Jerome Kerviel was the sole creator, inventor and user of a fraudulent system that caused these damages to Societe Generale," the court said in its ruling.

A nervous-looking Kerviel, who chewed his nails as he heard the verdict, was not forced to go to jail immediately. A separate judge will decide the precise terms of his sentence and how many hours he spends behind bars every day - a process that lawyers say could take weeks.

In all, Kerviel's sentence is for five years in jail, two of which are suspended.

The ruling is a victory for SocGen, which has spent years trying to shake off the scandal after it hit headlines around the world at the dawn of the 2008 financial crisis.

It also comes as the financial industry battles lawsuits over crisis-era behavior and public perception it is too risky.

Kerviel's lawyer, David Koubbi, said he was examining the possibility of calling on France's highest court of appeal, the Cour de Cassation, to rule on the legality of the rulings.

"We had given ourselves the goal of defending Mr. Kerviel against an absolutely appalling injustice. I can tell you that we've failed," Koubbi told journalists outside the court.

FAILED APPEAL

Kerviel has never denied masking the 50 billion euro positions that made headlines around the world as the financial crisis unfolded in early 2008, he has always said his bosses knew what he was doing -- which SocGen denies.

Former SocGen Chief Executive Daniel Bouton testified both this year and in 2010, calling Kerviel a "great deceiver" and saying that the bank's risk managers and back-office staff never stood a chance against the trader's manipulations.

The lack of a new "smoking gun" during this year's appeal that might have radically shaken up the case meant that outside observers saw Kerviel's chances of walking free as slim.

But if the judge had put any responsibility onto SocGen for the losses, the bank might have had to repay 1.7 billion euros in tax write-offs on the losses.

As for the 4.9 billion, the bank has already said it would be reasonable in reclaiming this sum, seen as a future claim on earnings than a one-off fine.

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