The motives that propelled alleged rogue trader Jerome Kerviel to trade huge amounts of money, ending in accusations of fraud from his bank, Societe Generale, are coming to light after a partial transcript of prosecutor questioning was released.
In the document, posted on the web site of French daily Le Monde, Kerviel maintains that he was only trying to earn money for the bank and as a result benefit from bonuses to his salary. Judicial sources have confirmed the authenticity of the document, according to media reports. The document is from an interview this past weekend.
THE OBJECTIVE WAS TO EARN MONEY FOR THE BANK ONLY
Above all, I have in mind making money for my bank. It's my primary motivation, Kerviel said. The objective was to earn money for the bank only, and it was never the case to enrich myself.
Bank officials say Kerviel made bets of 50 billion euros ($74 billion) in unauthorized trades on Europe stock index futures. After it learned of this two weeks ago, the bank said that winding down those positions in the following days eventually led to a loss of 4.9 billion euros ($7.1 billion). He has been charged by prosecutors with breach of trust, forgery and hacking into computer systems.
Kerviel, who began working at the bank in 2000, was previously employed at Societe's risk management office where the company monitored trades. The company said that the knowledge he gained there aided his efforts to hide his trades.
Kerviel said that his superiors at the bank were turning a blind eye to the methods he used and volumes of funds he was trading. He admitted to prosecutors that he forged e-mails and hacked into computers to disguise his trades.
I was generating cash, so the signals weren't worrying for them, he said. As long as we win and it isn't too obvious, and it could be arranged, they say nothing.
THERE IS A SNOWBALL EFFECT
He said he began making trades in 2005, at first earning a 500,000 euro jackpot for the bank. At the time he said he already had the idea to disguise his position, though he was proud of the result.
This generates a desire to continue. There is a snowball effect, he said.
By the end of July in 2007, he said his disguised earnings rose to 500 million euros. He said he was very intimidated by the amount. By December 31 he had generated an unreported cushion of 1.4 billion euros. He said he felt overwhelmed by the figure, not knowing how to manage it, so he concealed it.
I can't believe that my superiors were not aware of the amounts I was risking, it is impossible to generate such profits with small positions, Kerviel told prosecutors. That leads me to say that when I was in the black, my superiors closed their eyes to the methods and volumes involved. In the course of normal activity, a trader cannot generate as much cash.
Kerviel, who earned a fixed salary of 48,000 euros plus bonuses, said that he was negotiating with his employer to gain as much as 600,000 euros for 2007 for helping the bank gain. However the firm offered him 300,000, he said.
He gave several examples of signs of suspicious activity the bank missed, including what he said was one of the simplest warning signs that something was amiss.
The simple fact of not taking days off (4 days) should have been an alert about me. This is one of the primary rules of internal controls, he said. A trader who doesn't take a vacation is a trader who does not want to give his book to another.