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Soc Gen Rogue Trader Jerome Kerviel to Face Lamest Penalty in Recorded History

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I’m no expert on France, but everything I need to know about their attitudes towards imprisonment can be summed up by a story I think I heard once about how some people stormed the Bastille, which I believe was a prison.

My uninformed suspicion that the French hate jails was confirmed today when it was reported that Jerome Kerviel, the Soc Gen rogue trader who lost his firm $6.5 billion, would face a maximum of 4 years in jail for his crime.

If convicted (if!), lawyers think he’ll spend about 2 years behind les bars.

Bloomberg aptly points out that this is far less than what thieves in a similar league face around the world. Madoff, who lost investors about $20 billion, got 150 years. (about 7.5 years per billion lost)

In Singapore, Nick Leeson got 6.5 years for losing $1.36 billion for Barings Plc. (about 4.7 years per billion lost)

In Japan, Yasuo Hamanaka got 8 years for hiding $2.6 billion in copper trading losses at Sumitomo Corp. (about 3 years per billion lost)

By contrast, Kerviel is getting about 4 months for every billion he lost. By Madoff standards, he should’ve got about 50 years in the US.

Stephane Bonifassi, a defense lawyer in Paris, told Bloomberg that in France, “there is the feeling that prison should be about allowing people to amend themselves.”

To which I ask: Whatever happened to good ol’ “become the prison librarian and amend yourself by teaching your fellow inmates Romantic poetry the likes of Byron and Shelley?”

Oh well, I know where I'm headed when I want to lose a few billion.

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.