Friday, February 01, 2008

The French Do It Differently. . .

I was highly diverted this morning to read in the Wall Street Journal that Jérôme Kerviel is still employed by Société Générale. You remember him, surely. He's the fellow who works for the giant French commercial bank who went off on a trading lark of his own and ended up in the red with €4.9 billion of the bank's money. It's made for a very entertaining week of newspaper-reading, not least for the opportunity to pronounce So-SEE-eh-tay Zhen-eh-RAHL several times at the breakfast table. And now, even though he's put them on the hook for billions (with a B) he still technically works for the said Société.

Mind you the bank would dearly love to fire him:

Daniel Bouton, the bank's chairman and CEO, issued an English-language statement, announcing that the "individual in question has been dismissed." But that turned out to be a translation error. The French original said that he had been "mis à pied," which translates literally as "put on foot," but basically means to be suspended or asked to go home.

"They can't just tell him to take his bags and get lost," says Michel Origier, a trade-union representative at the French bank where Mr. Kerviel worked -- and, technically at least, still works.

It seems you have to have a formal meeting, employer and employee, in which the employee is told face-to-face wherein his work product has failed to meet expectations. And they can't do that. Mr Kerviel is under court order not to visit the bank or meet with any bank employees. Poor old Société Général. Poor old Kerviel, if it comes to that. So long as he's still employed, he's not eligible for unemployment compensation.