The "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel is in the news again. I can say this with confidence, not least because I wrote about him in today's Independent. Kerviel's is a story I've followed, as the Indie piece indicates, for personal and professional reasons. The plot, location, framing and isolation of Samuel Spendlove, the hero of Meltdown and its sequel, Version Thirteen, were weirdly pre-figurative of the actual events of L'Affaire Kerviel - something widely picked up by the French and Swiss press.
Unlike the sometimes foolish Samuel Spendlove, Kerviel did commit the crimes he was accused of - although it's impossible to believe he did it all alone, as recent reports in the French press indicate. As a victim and a scapegoat, Kerviel certainly has my sympathy. His Tweets have a sardonic, embittered edge. He's been stitched up, and he knows it - he laughs at journalistic speculation, mockingly says he expects them to follow him to the lavatory... #Decryptage? The translation of that one is clear: they can damn well work it all out for themselves. Kerviel has lost too much, he's dangerous - just like Samuel Spendlove in the first book of the Spendlove trilogy, Meltdown.
So here's the deal: BOGOF. Buy One Get One Free. Buy a hard copy of Version Thirteen on this site (or two e-cbooks) - it's a sequel, yes, but a stand-alone novel with some reviews kind enough to make my mother blush - and get a PDF or other e-version of Meltdown absolutely free. That's two for the price of one, in plain terms. As I write below, in a very different context, the Kerviel story is a gift that keeps on giving.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and once your purchase has been verified via the Random House site the PDF or other format will be forwarded to you.
The story of Jerome Kerviel is more than a media gift that keeps on giving. It’s a riot that keeps on rioting.
Kerviel, since his release from a three-year jail term last September, has been on protest walks (good exercise for released prisoner and attendant press hordes alike), been the subject of fiercely contested civil lawsuits launched with the object of reclaiming the lost billions for which he, as a trader at Societe Generale (SocGen) was held solely responsible, and generally created the kind of permanent revolution, the continuous disruption of France’s financial and political establishment that the hardest-nosed Marxist could only dream of.
What makes it worse for the establishment is that, following recent revelations in the press, Kerviel is gaining in popularity (and, by necessary inference, credibility). According to a poll published on Friday, 53 per cent of the French public have a positive opinion of him...
The bizarre fact is that a week before the Kerviel story broke, I published a novel about a Paris-based rogue trader who was scapegoated as a rogue trader whose series of trades nearly brought down his bank and with it the entire financial system. Samuel Spendlove, the hero of Meltdown, was innocent of these crimes, nor was he guilty of the murder of a beautiful colleague. But he was isolated, and forced to go on the run to prove his innocence in the fictional world of the book. Commentators at the time were astonished by the luck of my timing.
But, actually, it wasn’t really luck. Until recently I was a full-time journalist, and had spent seven years as the investment editor of The International Herald Tribune (now The International New York Times) in Paris. I felt that I knew that abuses and massive risk-taking was going on – but the legal constraints on proper reporting and good journalism meant that – short of becoming a one-man investigation bureau - I couldn't write the story.
Consider this: I was constantly nagged by PR officers to interview an alleged mathematical genius with an algorithm that always made a profit (if you’re a sceptic you can substitute “alchemy” for algorithm in that last sentence). Then, after a market downturn, I called him – only to be put straight through to the press office. The rumour was that the “genius” has been making losses, covering them up – and got sacked, leaving a $1 billion hole behind him. The bank he worked for was (at that time) state-owned, and it all got hushed up.
How could that be? How could someone be allowed to get away with such things – especially in a world that places such faith in the probity of the market, the market you just can’t buck? I chose to tell that truth in the creative space of a model. It requires collusion, connivance, and scheming. It is impossible to keep such things secret, to act alone – certainly to manipulate billions alone. When Kerviel was trading I believe there were hundreds of compliance officers at SocGen – some say as many as 2,000. What were they doing? Were they deaf dumb and blind kids, skilled only in pinball?
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