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Kerviel Lawyer Blasts SocGen; Trial Verdict Oct. 5

Jerome Kerviel was a pawn in a mind-boggling financial system that pushed him to take risks, lawyer Olivier Metzner argued on the last day of the trial of the former Societe Generale trader.

Jerome Kerviel shown here released on bail from La Sante Prison by a Parisian court on March 18, 2008 in Paris, France. Jerome Kerviel, the Societe Generale rogue trader was accused of losing 4.9 billion euros (7.2 billion US dollars) through unauthorised trading.
Franck Prevel | Getty Images
Jerome Kerviel shown here released on bail from La Sante Prison by a Parisian court on March 18, 2008 in Paris, France. Jerome Kerviel, the Societe Generale rogue trader was accused of losing 4.9 billion euros (7.2 billion US dollars) through unauthorised trading.

Casting Kerviel as a humble "Breton boy" who was corrupted by SocGen, a bank that thrived on risk, Metzner told the court the real mystery was not Kerviel's huge risky bets but the wider financial system.

"Who are you, Societe Generale? Who are you? How do you create men like this?" Metzner said on Friday, his voice rising to a crescendo in the courtroom in the Palais de Justice.

Kerviel's defense team is calling for him to be acquitted of charges of breach of trust and forgery relating to a 4.9 billion euro ($6.6 billion) trading loss in 2008 that almost brought SocGen to its knees.

He is pleading guilty to a third charge of computer abuse. The public prosecutor is calling for a five-year prison sentence for all the charges.

Presiding judge Dominique Pauthe told the court on Friday as the 2 1/2-week trial drew to a close that the verdict would be delivered on Oct. 5 at 0800 GMT.

Kerviel risks five years in prison and a 375,000 euro fine if found guilty of forgery, computer abuse and breach of trust.

Kerviel, 33, has admitted building up unauthorized positions reaching 50 billion euros that SocGen blames for trading losses. But he has insisted his bosses knew what he was doing and encouraged him to take risks.

SocGen has argued Kerviel acted alone and egregiously in building up risky bets, creating fictitious covering trades and breaching the bank's risk control system.

It has asked for him to be punished and to repay the 4.9 billion euros. Asked by Pauthe at the end of the trial if he had anything to add, Kerviel said he did not.

System Blamed

Focusing his final argument on Friday on the wider financial crisis, Metzner pointed the finger at SocGen's subprime mortgage losses, the U.S. government's rescue of insurer AIG and the near-meltdown of the financial system as symptomatic of a chaotic world that produced Kerviel.

"We seek to know if Kerviel went beyond the limit, took excessive risks, but (SocGen) did it regularly," Metzner told the hot, cramped court.

Metzner, a high-profile lawyer, has a roster of clients that includes former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and ex-Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

After more than an hour of broadsides against SocGen, Metzner said with a wry smile he was not putting the bank on trial.

He instead claimed the prosecution had pushed him to describe in detail the bank's limits to better defend Kerviel. "I am defending one man against a system, against lies, against constructed lies," Metzner said.

Metzner's colleague, Nicolas Huc-Morel, opened the last day of the trial on Friday by presenting Kerviel as a passionate, loyal, young man whose unauthorized trading was tolerated by his employers.

"There is no 'Kerviel mystery'," Huc-Morel said. "The mystery is rather Societe Generale. How could the bank allow (such) massive positions to be taken?"

Contact Europe: Economy

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