DO NOT READ THIS OF YOU ARE IN THE UNITED STATES, CANADA, JAPAN OR AUSTRALIA1.
Soc Gen have had a bad quarter, but not a bad year. Unlike several other banks reporting losses this quarter, they are not declaring a loss for the full year – but they do have an additional source of pain – a rogue trader2, losing EUR4.9bn. Apparently this one got away with it as he was formerly in the middle office and had an “…in-depth knowledge of the control procedures…”. Guys – it should not matter how well you know the control procedures, they should be designed to work in any case. I have a feeling this one will run for a while. The point here is that a position should be noticed, no matter what, long before it gets to a value in the billions, never mind a loss in the billions.
My guess is that he did a Nick Leeson – put the positions in as
counterparty positions rather than prop (bank) ones. Still the cash to
fund the positions should have shown up. As he was
forex my guess is that he was betting against the euro – the biggest losing bet around in a liquid currency (update – corrected in comments below).
Like most of these frauds, I would guess the auditors will be both asking a lot of question and be asked a lot of questions. Luckily, they seem to have two audit firms in there – I presume this is French law. That must be fun for the employees having to deal with them.
As a side note – it looks like the BBC has got the wrong end of the stick – their report (as it stands now) says that it was all lost in one trade. This is not correct according to the Soc Gen press release.
They are going to market for EUR 5.5 bn to make up some capital losses. I presume this is to cover for growth in the business and a re-rating of the risk of their trading portfolio.
1. OK – that made you look. The press release from Soc Gen has this
all over it. Just shows how ridiculous these restrictions are.
2. (UPDATE) Looks like SocGen has disabled access to the release. I have removed the link. The Economist link lower down the post is much more interesting anyway.