French find new hero in rogue trader who nearly broke the bank

29th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

Many in France, where suspicion of globalisation and financial markets runs deep, have found a new hero in a young man who subverted the system

   PARIS, January 29, 2008  - Many in France, where suspicion of
globalisation and financial markets runs deep, have found a new hero in a
young man who subverted the system and allegedly lost his bank five billion
   For Societe Generale bank, trader Jerome Kerviel is a "crook, fraudster and
terrorist" but for many here Kerviel is a scapegoat whose action has exposed
what they see as the outrageous greed of global finance.
   "He is the product of a system that pushes people into taking huge risks in
the pursuit of huge profits," said 29-year-old office worker Marie Fournier.
   "All he did was get carried away by that system and take it to extremes. He
may well have done us all a service by reminding us what goes on," she said as
she took a walk in central Paris during her lunchbreak.
   A straw poll taken Monday on the streets of Paris revealed many similar
opinions, but as many people who saw 31-year-old Kerviel's activities as
simply criminal.
   Kerviel was taken before a Paris investigating judge Monday who was poised
to charge him over the 4.9-billion-euro (7.15-billion-dollar) loss, which
nearly wiped out the bank's 2007 profit and left it a potential takeover
   The junior dealer, the son of a hairdresser, wanted to be an "exceptional
trader" and earn a bigger bonus but did not try to profit personally from the
unauthorised financial deals, according to a French prosecutor.
   The scandal, which broke last week during one of the most turbulent periods
for years in global stock markets, is "the symbol of mad money," said the
opposition Socialist party's economy spokesman Michel Sapin.
   Its eruption in the midst of the biggest plunge in share prices since the
terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and against the wider background of the
US subprime housing crisis, has fuelled French wariness of capitalism.
   The French Communist Party went as far as comparing Kerviel to Alfred
Dreyfus, the Jewish army captain whose dismissal more than a century ago on
trumped-up charges of spying triggered a protracted national crisis.
   Dominique Moisi of the French Institute of International Relations said
Kerviel has become a hero for some because of "the feeling (in France) that
the very rich are always getting their way and that relatively modest agents
are used as scapegoats."
   "But of course this is something you could expect in a country where part
of the left and a large section of the population is still anti-globalisation
and anti-capitalism," he told AFP.
   Globalisation for many French, whose country is the sixth richest in the
world due partly to international trade, is all about French factories closing
and moving to China.
   Opinion polls regularly show that a large section of the French population
see the free market as a threat.
   Even the political right is wary of what is widely seen here as brutal
"Anglo-Saxon" capitalism.
   French President Nicolas Sarkozy said after the Societe Generale scandal
broke that the financial system had "lost sight of its purpose." He denounced
operations which can produce "gigantic profits" as well as "gigantic losses"
in a few hours.
   Kerviel, a seemingly unremarkable young man who has now entered the annals
of financial history, has also become a cyberspace star, with a burgeoning
cult on the Facebook social networking site and numerous websites dedicated to
   The "Jerome Kerviel FanClub" group on Facebook had 1,060 members on Monday,
while the most popular Facebook site has recruited more than 1,500 members.
   All the sites have been flooded with messages, mostly jokey or praising the
   "This bloke is my idol! Run, Jerome, run!" said one message.


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