Jerome Kerviel faced judges yesterday as a long-awaited showdown began over his part in a €4.9bn (£4bn) trading loss that brought French bank Societe Generale close to collapse.
The 33-year-old trader, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and a light, thinly striped tie, yesterday described his “extreme” trader past on the first day of his long-awaited trial saying that he worked from 7am to 10pm, bank holidays included, with only a brief break to eat a sandwich at his desk.
“At certain times it was extreme … Tiring, physically,” Kerviel said as he described his job as trader at Societe Generale from 2005 after rising through the ranks of “middle-office” and assistant roles at the bank.
Kerviel, who could face five years in jail and a €375,000 fine if found guilty of charges of breach of trust, computer abuse and forgery, declared his current profession as “consultant” and his monthly salary as €2,300.
The trial will dredge up uncomfortable memories for SocGen as it tries to restore investor confidence in an atmosphere of fragile economic recovery and looming tighter regulation. Although Kerviel has admitted to building up unauthorised trading positions leading up to the loss in 2008, he has said breaches in SocGen’s risk control system were tolerated, and this has been a key part of his legal defence.
SocGen has hit back by saying he acted alone and that investigating magistrates had already dismissed his claims of tacit complicity from his bosses. The bank said before the trial that it holds Kerviel entirely responsible and called for an “exemplary punishment”. Facing off in the trial are two of Paris’ best-known lawyers – Metzner and Jean Veil. Cigar-smoking barrister Metzner’s clients include ex-Panama dictator Manuel Noriega, ex-Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier and former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. The trial is due to run until 25 June.