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French appeals court orders former trader pay bank a million euros

David Koubbi, one of Kerviel's lawyers (L) and Jérôme Kerviel (R) speaking to RFI in Versailles, France on 15 June 2016
David Koubbi, one of Kerviel's lawyers (L) and Jérôme Kerviel (R) speaking to RFI in Versailles, France on 15 June 2016 Dominique Faget / AFP

An appeals court in Versailles ruled on Friday that former trader Jérôme Kerviel must repay Societe Generale one million euros of the 4.9 billion euros that he lost in a series of disastrous trades.


The appeals court in Versailles said Kerviel was "partially responsible for the loss", which brought the French banking giant to the brink of bankruptcy in 2008.

Jean Veil, a lawyer for Societe Generale, said the ruling was "completely satisfactory".

The court could have ordered Kerviel to pay the entire 4.9 billion euros or not a single centime , which would have been a humiliating defeat for the bank.

Kerviel was convicted of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data for the trades.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, two of which were suspended, but has always maintained that his bosses had turned a blind eye as long as the profits kept rolling in.

In total he only actually spent 150 days in prison.

In a civil case, Kerviel was first ordered to repay the entirety of the enormous losses but that was quashed on appeal, with judges ruling that the bank's internal oversight mechanisms had failed.

Friday's verdict follows hearings at the Versailles appeal court in June in which lawyers for Societe Generale made a fresh attempt to claw back the cash.

The bank said it had "always recognised the weaknesses and faults in its system of checks", but that Kerviel was responsible for the trades.

The bank has meanwhile appealed a June ruling by a Paris labour tribunal that ordered it to pay Kerviel 450,000 euros in damages. That court ruling found that Kerviel he had been fired "without genuine or serious cause".

Kerviel, 39, from a modest background in the western region of Brittany, divides opinion in France. Some people paint him as the scapegoat of a rotten political system beholden to big finance. Other people feel he should be judged in accordance with the crimes committed.  

For his part, Kerviel has never denied taking risks -- at one point staking 50 billion euros of the bank's money -- but maintains that his bosses were just as much at fault as he was. Kerviel is alleged to have made Societe Generale 1.9 billion euros before the financial crisis accelerated his losses.

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