The whole Soc Gen thing would be funny if it were not so serious. The latest information is that a 31 year old trader, apparently acting alone, managed to run up a 50bn euros (USD73bn; GBP37bn; AUD84bn) position without it being noticed. Dear, dear me. This is risk management failure on an almost heroic scale. This is more than the capital of the bank.
Just as well Soc Gen has grown fat over the decades on their home market. The real pity is that it looks like the unwinding of that position has caused losses all around the globe. There will be some very happy counterparties in Paris, though. A few magnums of Veuve Clicquot? More like Grande Dame.
US sub-prime driven turbulence? Probably not. French fraud? Probably yes.
The comments from his lawyer are priceless:
Lawyers for Mr Kerviel, who is being questioned by police, said their client had “committed no dishonest act”.”He did not siphon off a single cent, and did not profit in any way” from the bank’s assets, the lawyers told AFP.
They also accused the bank of trying to “create a smokescreen which would divert public attention from losses that were significantly more substantial than those it accumulated in recent months”.
We have to presume innocence, but I will be fascinated to see how they justify that position. It looks like he had admitted the trading activity, so the only possible defence is the Leeson Defence – which did not work for its originator. At least Kerviel will not end up in Changi Prison if the defence fails.
30 January, 2008 at 21:17
Perhaps the trader should be put back on the desk to close out his positions or fulfill his trading strategy.
Crazier strategies have won …
More importantly perhaps management should be put in a questioning room and hauled in to explain their behavior or lack of insight or even greatness with incompetence.
Who knows this might be the rogue trader who lives to trade another day and for once management loose their bonus and have to look to e-financials for another position.
1 February, 2008 at 02:56
What would have happened if he was 5 billion euros UP?
Maybe the same guys who got fired would still be fired *except* for the trader?!
1 February, 2008 at 08:12
The firings then probably would have been with the counterparty banks :)
Seriously, though – trading outside limits like this is just wrong. The occasional, slight breach – reportable and discipline should be imposed, but this? Systemic and human failure across the board.