Kerviel: 'ordinary' guy behind France's record rogue trade

8th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, who lost his bank nearly five billion euros, paints himself as a simple soul caught up in an orgy of greed, who furnished his modest suburban flat with Ikea furniture.

The 37-year-old, who nearly brought Societe Generale -- one of Europe's biggest banks -- to its knees with wildly risky trades, walked free from a French prison Monday after just over four months behind bars.

His first thought was for his mother, whom he said he "couldn't wait" to ring.

"I am super happy to leave today ... I want to rebuild my life. I want to have a normal life with my loved ones, start a family and finally be able to enjoy life," Kerviel told reporters as he left the prison.

Branded a crook by his ex-employer and a scapegoat by his apologists, Kerviel has insisted his bosses knew what he was doing and turned a blind eye to possible breaches of rules as long as the profits kept rolling in.

Even as he racked up billions for the bank in its skyscraper in Paris's La Defense business district, Kerviel lived modestly in a small suburban flat and took the train to Brittany during the holidays to visit his widowed mother.

"I am an ordinary person. I am not crazy," he said during investigations into the scandal after Societe Generale was driven to unwind 50 billion euros of risky deals that it blames on him.

"I didn't earn millions (in salary) and I didn't drive a Porsche," said Kerviel, who was paid 50,000 euros a year plus tens of thousands more in bonuses when the scandal erupted in January 2008.

"Have you seen my apartment? Forty-five square metres (485 square feet), no masters' paintings. Ikea furniture," he added.

Some commentators have interpreted his big risk-taking as motivated by the desire to prove himself, a young man from a modest background, among the ranks of high-flying traders from elite schools.

Societe Generale says he worked out how to circumvent complex risk-control mechanisms and its lawyer Jean Veil accused him of "duplicity" in reassuring his employers that all was well.

- 'Lost morals' -

Kerviel was born in the small town of Pont l'Abbe, Brittany, to a father who taught metalwork and a mother who was a hairdresser.

He once ran for municipal office as a candidate from ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party but was not elected. He told the newspaper Liberation that as a child he wanted to be a vet.

Instead, Kerviel trained in economics and finance at universities in nearby Quimper and in Nantes and Lyon, where his teachers said he graduated with solid but not exceptional grades.

He joined Societe Generale in 2000 and, five years later, was promoted to the "front office" to trade futures on European share indices -- effectively betting on the direction of the stock market.

Colleagues at the time described him as a quiet loner. Journalists have likened the fresh-faced ex-trader to the film star Tom Cruise.

He liked the music of R and B singer Alicia Keys and was a big film fan, admitting that he cried at the end of the 3D fantasy "Avatar".

Kerviel spent 38 days in custody after his arrest in 2008 and later took up a job at a small IT company in a suburb of Paris.

He said ahead of his initial trial that he hoped it would teach people the lessons of the global financial crisis.

"Respect for work, solidarity, honesty -- I grew up with these notions. But when I became a trader, I lost part of these morals."

In a bid to raise awareness, he embarked on a trek from Rome to Paris to highlight the "tyranny of the markets", even securing an audience with Pope Francis.

His new arrangements will suit a modest man.

Under the terms of his release, he must wear an electronic tagging bracelet that will track his movements and he has to be at home between the hours of 8:30 pm and 7:00 am.

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© 2014 AFP

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