French bank ordered to pay $510,000 to former trader Kerviel

PARIS – French bank Societe Generale has been ordered to pay about 450,000 euros ($510,000) to former trader Jerome Kerviel for unfair dismissal, after he was accused of one of the biggest trading frauds in history.

Kerviel has become an icon for critics of the banking world, and his supporters hailed Tuesday’s decision in his favour by a labour arbitration court. A stunned Societe Generale called it “incomprehensible” and vowed to appeal.

It’s part of a web of ongoing legal cases involving Kerviel since his trades spiraled into losses so big they nearly caused the collapse of one of Europe’s biggest banks in 2008.

Kerviel argues that his superiors knew about his questionable financial operations and permitted them as long as he was earning money for the bank. Societe Generale insists it wasn’t aware and says Kerviel intentionally concealed unauthorized trading.

Kerviel was fired after the trades came to light, and later sued for wrongful dismissal. The labour court ruled Tuesday that he was fired “without real and serious cause.”

“VICTORY!” Kerviel’s lawyer David Koubbi wrote on his Facebook page.

Societe Generale said in a statement the decision is “counter to the facts that have been judged” in other courts.

Kerviel served time in prison over the trades after a criminal conviction, and a civil court ordered him to pay the bank back all 4.9 billion euros in losses he generated ($7 billion at the time).

France’s highest court annulled the financial damages, however, saying the bank shared responsibility, and a new trial will be held next week in Versailles to determine how much Kerviel should pay.