Jerome Kerviel was the Breton bank trader who gambled and lost his bank a €5bn fortune. His trial starts this week:
If you want to hide a leaf, find a forest. Jérôme Kerviel, alleged to be the world's biggest rogue trader, will attempt to hide a €5bn leaf in a multi-trillion euro forest when he goes on trial in Paris today. Mr Kerviel's defence will be horrendously complex – and very simple. His lawyers will admit that what he did in 2007-8 – to bet more than the value of France's second largest bank on a series of trades on stock exchange futures – was insane. However, they will also argue that his actions were rational, even tacitly approved, within a global banking culture which had, itself, broken off relations with reality.
Put another way, the chief exhibits in Mr Kerviel's defence will be the subprime mortgage crisis and the global financial meltdown of 2008-9.
As Kerviel says in his autobiography:
"No doubt I committed errors. I overrode the usual methods, loaded false data to disguise gains, as well as losses. In a word, I pushed the system to its limit... But [what] was happening around me? [A] giant fraud perpetrated by all the trading floors in the world. To get good results, any tricks were permitted. The golden rule of the banking culture was simple: if you win, you are in the right; if you lose you are wrong and you're out."
It reminds you of the twisted rationale of Catch-22:
"The only way to survive such an insane system is to be insane oneself."