Growth almost worked for Jerome Kerviel

It’s always fun to visit a corporation’s Web site when the company has just lost billions due to massive fraud. The site of Societe General is no exception. Go to the “Careers” section in the English-language edition of the site and you’ll see pages headed by the motto, “Growth, if it works for us, it works for you.” Hmm. Guided by such a delphic statement, no wonder Jerome Kerviel (now known in the French press as “the mad trader,” according to a piece in The New York Times) took it upon himself to circumvent Societe Generale’s financial safeguards and make illicit trades that have cost the company some $7 billion. The behavior that should have been a red flag to his colleagues? As the Times article notes, Kerviel “reported to work early, stayed late, and took only four days off in 2007, in a nation where six weeks of vacation is de rigueur.” It can’t be long before he turns up in some company’s advertising as a rogue-madman-trader celebrity endorser. In so doing, he’d be following somewhat more grandly in the footsteps of Nick Leeson, the rogue trader whose dealings bankrupted the venerable Barings Bank in 1995. Leeson’s own Web site says he “continues to speak regularly at conferences and dinners” in his post-prison career.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver