Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jerome Kerviel

Société Générale hosted its shareholders' meeting yesterday, five months after the disclosure of $7.7 billion in trading losse, which it blamed on rogue trader Jerome Kerviel.

Shareholders weren't happy. Daniel Bouton, ther company chairman, was lustily booed while he stood impassively at the podium and one shareholder, Jean Richard, shouted, "Who do you take us for" to approval of the crowd. Or so the scene is captured in The New York Times' report.

When SocGen first reported the Kerviel losses, Bouton was both chairman and chief executive. Criticism of his captaincy has been intense -- some of it coming from President Sarkozy -- and Bouton has since given up the CEO post. But he does remain the chair.

Since the start of the year, the value of their shares has declined by 28%. It isn't surprising they're ticked off.

Back in February, it was Felix Salmon, of Portfolio, who put his finger on the key point. Kerviel's profit-and-loss balance for last year was a wild zig-zag on both sides of the zero line. Entering December, though, he found himself sitting on a pot, more than 1 billion euros in the black. He suddenly gets extremely conservative, as if sitting on that pot untilt he year's end. Either he stopped trading entirely or his hedging was perfect.

Then, comes January ... he starts trading again and almost immediately ends up below -4 billion euros.

More is happening than meets the eye if the eye is looking here.

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