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What Actually Happened

Kernel's criminal trial lasted three weeks, during which the defense attorneys reinforced Kerviel's claims that his managers at Societe Generale were well aware of the nature and scale of his trading and encouraged him to continue, so long as he made profits. They highlighted that Kerviel did not derive any personal profit from his unauthorized trades. Societe Generale's attorneys, acting as co-plaintiff, acknowledged the failings in supervision and control described in the internal audit and PwC reports published in 2008, but rebutted any suggestion that the bank knowingly allowed Kerviel to conduct the unauthorized trading that resulted in its massive loss. Both parties had to wait another three months for the verdict, which caused a new uproar when it was announced on October 5,2010. The three- judge panel found Kerviel guilty of all three charges – abuse of trust, forgery, and computer access abuse – and sentenced him to five years in prison with two suspended, ordering him to compensate Societe Generale €4.9 billion (U.S.$7.1 billion) for its losses. No penalties or reprimands were directed at Societe Generale at all. Kerviel's attorneys immediately filed an appeal, while the severity of the sentence and Societe Generale's complete exoneration reignited media speculation that France's financial establishment had colluded to label Kerviel as a scapegoat.

Kernel's appeal took another two years to be heard, but the result did not go in his favor. On October 24, 2012, the appeals judge upheld the trial verdict and sentence. However, Kerviel did not immediately go to jail or pay any of the compensation to Societe Generale, whose amount was clearly symbolic. In fact, he disappeared from public view after the appeal and only briefly reappeared in July 2013, to ask a Paris employment tribunal for his January 2008 dismissal by Societe Generale to be overturned and an independent inquiry constituted to investigate the circumstances surrounding it. However, the tribunal rejected his request, leaving Kerviel to seek other options to delay or escape his sentence.

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