Saturday, January 26, 2008

Executive of the Year, and It's Only January

Reading about a good white collar crime in the New York Times and/or Wall Street Journal offers the same pleasures as reading about a good gangland slaying in the Chicago Sun-Times or the two New York tabloids. So naturally, I've been neglecting my Super Bowl hype consumption this week to follow the case of M. Jerome Kerviel, formerly of Paris, France, now of parts unknown.

Kerviel is the enterprising employee of the humongous bank Societe Generale who stands accused of having lost the firm over $7 billion in one day's worth of imaginary stock trades he conducted after somehow bypassing the bank's in-house fail-safe system. It's unclear if any laws were broken, since Kerviel's initial profits in the fake deals went to the bank, not him. He was taking one (well, billions and billions of ones) for the team.

Serial killers, super fraudsters, it's always the same story. Would you believe that Kerviel was a loner? That he was totally average in every way, and colleagues and neighbors barely noticed him? Of course you would! Oh for the day when a neighbor says, "if you were looking for the kind of person who'd ruin the world financial system (slays six, ends high speed chase by ramming the Vatican, etc.) it'd be him."

If Kerviel wasn't average then we wouldn't be able to read all the entertaining conspiracy theories about Societe Generale and the masterminds who're using him as a patsy. A crime without conspiracy theories is like a cheeseburger without french fries.

Anyway, if you happen to run into Kerviel this weekend, buy him a Pernod. You owe him. According to today's Journal it now appears that when Societe Generale began to unwind all of Kerviel's transactions last Monday, THAT, and not fears of recession, are what sparked the worldwide collapse of stock prices that day. In other words, no Kerviel, no big interest cut by the Federal Reserve Board. No panic-created bipartisan economic stimulus package in Washington. No $300-600 check for you, the U.S. taxpayer. Better make that Pernod a double. It's only right.

Kerviel is only 31. I wonder about his future. Clearly, a man with such a creative flair for catastrophe is indispensable to the world economic system.

I have just for Kerviel, too. If a guy who lost 7 billion bucks before lunch one day isn't the perfect replacement for Isiah Thomas as coach, general manager, and president of the New York Knicks, I don't know who would be.


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