French ex-trader's bosses tell court they knew nothing

21st June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Trader Jerome Kerviel's former supervisors told a court Monday they were completely unaware of alleged rogue trades that nearly brought down Societe Generale bank, as his trial entered its final week.

"I did not see the orders he was placing," said Eric Cordelle, who was Kerviel's immediate supervisor on the "Delta One" trading desk where he had allegedly exposed the bank to 50 billion euros in outstanding positions.

"To check every one of the operations, you had to suspect fraud," Cordelle testified, adding that at the time "no one talked about fraud."

The 33-year-old Kerviel is blamed by Societe Generale, one of Europe's biggest banks, for losing it 4.9 billion euros (7.1 billion dollars at the time) in January 2008 by making unauthorised trades.

Cordelle and a second supervisor who also testified on Monday, Martial Rouyere, were dismissed after the scandal broke and the bank was criticised for failing to have proper surveillance of its traders.

Rouyere testified that Kerviel struck him as "a serious type, someone you could count on" and said he too was unaware of the extent of his risk-taking.

During three hours of testimony, Cordelle admitted that he knew nothing about financial trading when he started his job and often felt "lost" when traders used terminology that he did not understand.

Now unemployed, Cordelle said Kerviel offered "credible" explanations every time he was forced to justify his dealings. "It was all lies from beginning to end, but every time he had a credible explanation," he said.

Societe Generale said it suffered the heavy losses when it was forced to unravel 50 billion euros -- nearly all of the bank's nominal worth -- in allegedly unauthorised trades made by Kerviel.

Kerviel has admitted regularly exceeding trading limits and logging false transactions to cover his gambles, but says this was common practice and that his bosses turned a blind eye as long as earnings were high.

Branded a crook by his ex-employer but seen by others as a scapegoat, Kerviel faces up to five years in jail and a fine of 375,000 euros if convicted of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data into computers.

The trial is set to end on Friday and the court is expected to deliberate for several weeks before handing down a verdict.

© 2010 AFP

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