Saturday, May 03, 2008

Those That Have Kerviel Done to Them...

My absence from here over the past few months has caused me to miss some big news and I should forsake commenting on stuff that has long gone stale. I can't however resist going back to the story of Jérôme Kerviel, the French trader accused of being responsible for the loss of 4.82 billion euros, particularly on hearing the news that he is back in work after being headhunted as an IT consultant.

When the story broke in January there was a curious rallying on the French left to support Kerviel, proclaiming him a hero for exposing the mania of financial speculation. While it is quite likely that Kerviel is being held as a scapegoat for his part in the affair (it has been alleged by a number of sources that his employer Société Générale knew of his dealings and tacitly approved of them), the notion that an ambitious young financial trader might have some leftist whistle-blowing agenda is fanciful to say the least.

I find Kerviel fascinating though, mainly because of his very ordinariness, which is in sharp contrast to the magnitude of his financial losses, but also because of his name, which is wonderfully evocative, for English speakers at least. The plosive 'k', common to Breton surnames, followed by a 'v' and an 'l', suggests 'live', 'curve', 'evil' (something that is compounded by that unfortunately sinister-looking photograph of him that circulated in the wake of the affair) and also the late Eval Kineval, a suitable metaphor for Kerviel's acts of financial daredevilry. (English speakers should also note that the name is pronounced with three, not two, syllables, the el at the end carrying the main stress.)

Then there was the news that the story is to be turned, inevitably, into a film. No doubt it would follow the familiar trajectory of the financial scandal movie (most of which are scarcely memorable). Given that there is little of Kerviel's personal or professional life that gives itself to great drama (or drama full-stop) I think it would be more interestingly to dramatise the police interrogation of Kerviel, played along the lines of Claude Miller's brilliant 1981 film Garde à vue in which Lino Ventura's detective interrogates wealthy businessman Michel Serrault on the suspected muder of his wife. Gilbert Adair, on reviewing the film of Nick Leeson's own financial misdealings in Rogue Trader complained that the film was short on facts, relying instead on clichéd scenes of arriviste high living. An interrogation film in which Kerviel guards his hand carefully would be something I would gladly watch and which would tease the truth out of the story a lot better and more beguilingly than reams of newsprint. Somehow I don't think will be the film we'll be seeing though.