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Probe finds French trader acted alone

Investigators in a $7 billion fraud at French bank Societe Generale say that the only trader implicated in the scandal acted alone.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Officials investigating a multi-billion-euro trading scandal at French bank Societe Generale said Wednesday that a preliminary internal probe had found the only trader implicated in the scandal acted alone.

An internal investigating committee said it had found no evidence that anyone helped futures trader Jerome Kerviel hide his positions or that he may have made personal monetary gains through the allegedly unauthorized positions.

In an interim report, the investigators at France's No. 2 bank said procedures were followed correctly in general, but they failed to stop Kerviel, 31, who is accused of carrying out trades that led to almost $7.33 billion in losses.

"At this stage of the investigations, there is no evidence of embezzlement or internal or external complicity," according to a report by a committee charged with investigating the losses. "The investigations are continuing, in particular, to cover a wider area than the activities of the author of the fraud."

Societe Generale has said Kerviel began trading illicitly in 2005 for small amounts, building up to bets totaling $73.28 billion discovered on Jan. 18, which the bank then liquidated.

"The failure to identify the fraud until that date can be attributed firstly to the efficiency and variety of the concealment techniques employed by the fraudster, secondly to the fact that operating staff did not systematically carry out more detailed checks, and finally to the absence of certain controls" that "might have identified the fraud," the report said.

Headed by board member Jean-Martin Folz, former CEO of PSA Peugeot Citroen, the committee is being helped by more than 40 bank inspectors and auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to examine the causes and sizes of the trading losses and look into whether the bank accurately communicated information about the scandal.

The committee said it is declining to make any conclusions about any responsibility of Kerviel's superiors at this stage. It said it plans to deliver a full report before the bank's shareholders meeting May 27.

The case is also being investigated by the French market authority, the French banking commission and a French court.

Several weaknesses in Societe Generale's procedures have been identified, and correcting them right requires tightening computer security, reinforcing controls and taking more account of the possibility of fraud, the committee said.

Societe Generale will announce its 2007 results Thursday. An early statement to investors asked to fund about $8 billion capital increase said net profit fell to $1.37 billion, from $7.62 billion in 2006.