James Moore: Step forward Jerome Kerviel, court jester of casino capitalism


Outlook Jérôme Kerviel seems to have become a sort of white-collar Raoul Moat. Like the latter, the French rogue trader has been all but lionised for a series of frankly contemptible acts. Now it's true that unlike the execrable Moat, Kerviel didn't kill anyone. No, he just burnt his way through a staggering €5bn of other people's money, almost bringing down Société Générale and everyone who sailed within her.

And yet, as with Moat, for some people this is enough for him to be turned into a hero. Since his crimes – and yesterday a French court confirmed that they were indeed crimes – came to light, he has published an autobiography,T-shirts bearing his image have been printed, and he has even been likened to Robin Hood – even though he didn't actually give anything to the poor (and doesn't appear to have been trying to steal). His real motivations remain something of a mystery.

Good for the French authorities, then, who saw through his claims that he was "only following orders" and was nothing more than a patsy. While an appeal is pending, Kerviel is facing three years in jail and an order (largely symbolic) to pay back what he lost as a result of his unauthorised trading.

Not so good for the managers who appear to feel that they've been vindicated by the judges' verdict that Kerviel was acting alone. Kerviel may have been acting alone, but the fact that he was able to build up €50bn in positions as a relatively junior employee doesn't say much for the quality of the people overseeing his activities. Or for the bank's culture.

SocGen has, of course, admitted failings in its controls (and was fined €4m for its trouble). But its lawyer has depicted Kerviel as a hyper-intelligent super-fraudster, whose nefarious activities could not possibly have been picked up (until they were). Which is just a little hard to accept.

The reason Kerviel has been lionised in France is because of the way he has depicted himself as some sort of crusader, an enemy and victim of a greedy, corrupt, and self-serving banking elite. In fact, while coining it in as a trader, he was very much a part of it.

He is only a victim in that, had he been working for a bank with less dozy risk monitors, he would have been picked up and fired before his losses got much above a few million. He might well have been able to rock up at another bank for a repeat performance after that, too. People sacked in this way tend to leave with acceptable references because banks don't like to admit they've made mistakes.

A couple of these cycles and he'd have made enough to retire comfortably to the Breton countryside whence he came. Like so many others who have made substantial – but notmaterial – losses at so many banks. People whose combined losses the rest of us have been paying for. Poor Jérôme. His bad luck is that he didn't get found out soon enough. No hero. Nor a prince of casino capitalism. More a court jester. With bad jokes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer (Trainee) - City, London

£25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A large financial services company...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Assistant - Financial Services Sector - London

£20400 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and highly reputable organisat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future