Kerviel says trial can help clean up financial markets

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Former French trader Jerome Kerviel thinks his trial next month will put the clean up of financial markets in the spotlight, as speculators come under fire after the European debt crisis.

"On the Greek debt, we have heard all the heads of state say: we will not not let speculators do what they want. But two years ago, they said the same thing, I don't understand this," he told AFP.

Kerviel goes on trial on June 8, accused of gambling away billions of euros of Societe Generale's money in risky dealings that ended up costing the French bank 4.9 billion euros (6.5 billion dollars) in losses.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros if convicted on charges of breach of trust, falsifying and using fake documents and tampering with computer information.

One of France's three biggest banks, Societe Generale shocked the financial world when it revealed in January 2008 that it had been forced to unwind more than 50 billion euros of unauthorised deals Kerviel is said to have made.

Kerviel, 33, who will appear before a court in Paris from June 8 to 25, earlier this month made his case in a tell-all book that likened trading to prostitution and denounced the "big banking orgy."

At the office of his lawyer Olivier Metzner, Kerviel, sporting an all-black outfit, explained between cigarettes that he became aware of the havoc traders can wreak.

He said his trial "will throw up debate of raising moral standards in the public sphere," referring to financial markets.

He added that this would also show up that "I was not an isolated case" in the high-risk world of banking and trading.

Kerviel admitted he had "pushed some small companies towards the bottom" by speculating "downwards."

He added: "We were all doing everything, we were conditioned for this, we were paid for this, and if one does not do it, one gets a roasting," he said.

Referring to his trial, he said he was confident of the "technical elements" gathered by his defence, which he said would prove that he had not acted without his bosses knowledge.

"Some are people ready to give testimony, to help shed light" on the functioning of the trading floor.

Kerviel's lawyer points out that one "cannot abuse the confidence of someone who has authorised you to do what you have done."

Kerviel said after Societe Generale's revelations in 2008, "everyone was pointing at the traders. Everyone said 'we must raise moral standards, regulate' and (nearly) two years later nothing has been done."

"The system is damaged," he added.

Kerviel also said the Greek debt crisis disproved what he had been taught as a child.

"When I was at school, we were told that a state cannot go bankrupt," he said.

"And yet, we have just saved Greece from going bankrupt," Kerviel said, adding that people had for some time doubted Greek statistics.

Greece's overall government debt, which is traditionally reported as lower than the central debt due to the inclusion of profit-making state companies, is expected to reach 295 billion euros by the end of 2010, according to the finance ministry.

© 2010 AFP

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