Oh, Jérôme, Jérôme, what have you done? Uproar everywhere. Your masters at the Société Générale are beside themselves. They are tearing their hair at the Bourse. They are beating their breasts at the Élysée. They are pulling their chins at the Fisc. And in Brussels the Eurocrats are hatching regulations for ten times six times six levels of control on transactions in excess of two euros. Oh, Jérôme, Jérôme, they say you are a very bad man—a rogue or worse.
They say you have made €5 billion, give or take a piastre or a pistole, vanish. They say you are brilliant but evil, having foiled six levels of security, but that is a joke and a bad one at that. If you can foil one, then why not two? And if two, then why not three and so on and on? Those who condemn you lack your imagination. And that, M. Jérôme Kerviel, is what you have shown in abundance. So cheer up, mon vieux: you have actually given us reason for joy.
Has not Sarko, turning his back on Le Gros Charlot and Chirac le Minable, said France must embrace the world? Are not the grandees of French industry eyeing with envy the entrepreneurial economies of Singapore, Dubai, Ireland, and even the United States? Are not all our bien-pensants fellow countrymen and –women yearning to see the twenty-first as the French century? And you, my boy, have shown the way.
Together, let us remind everyone of good will of the magnificent Nick Leeson who brought Barings to its knees with dodgy trades that set the bank back a trifling ₤10 million, a rounding error next to your work. And think of the implosion at Long Term Capital Management a few years ago or the magnificent peculations of that posse of fantasists at Enron who nearly turned the world’s economy inside out. You leave them all behind, in the shade, eating dust.
Because—as I know you understand, mon enfant—they barely stuck their toes in the waters of financial imagination and construction, their manipulations being, in contrast to yours, hesitant, timid even, and sober compared to your intoxicating daring.
Of course, we all know and understand that you give them credit for blazing a trail, for opening up our eyes to the possibilities of trickery and sleight of computer (if not of hand, but the details have yet to emerge) that can create and, naturally, extinguish wealth by remote control and without breaking a sweat or plowing a furrow.
Yes, credit where credit is due: d’accord. But you understood and have shown us that the pioneering destruction of wealth on the sly in Asia and North America is not a regional or parochial entitlement, but truly worldwide—truly (dare I say the word?) global. And that should be a cause for joy, the kind that makes us dance in the streets and kiss total strangers with our eyes closed and our mouths open.
You have done what Sarko and an armada of economists in Europe have failed to accomplish, try though they certainly have. You have demonstrated that it is impossible to turn our backs on globalization, that physical borders are irrelevant, that the only future empires, as Churchill said, are the empires of the mind—and that the future has arrived on the soil of France.
You have chased the tariff-writers and the protectionists from the Temple. Today, because of you, Jérôme, we understand the world is ours to take and to savor. If a Frenchman can outdo the Anglo-Saxons and the Asians in financial roguery (or should I say creativity?), can anyone believe that another Frenchman or Frenchwoman cannot outdo all comers, from whichever continent, in any activity? I think not. So I think de Gaulle was wrong: there are indispensable men, men without whom we would never see the light of possibilities and the destinations of obscure paths, the men whose existence has changed the world.
No one but you, Jérôme, could have done for France what you have done. Singlehandedly and against all odds, you have launched France, like it or not, into the global economy, making all of us who love it major players in international finance.
There is no denying the truth. And, is it not true that what you have done has caused gastritis on every stock exchange around the globe? Is it not a fact that widows and orphans far beyond our borders have been made destitute by your trades? Is it also not true that SocGén, if it survives at all, will do so because HSBC and Barclays, hardly French institutions, will ride to the rescue?
A grateful nation thanks you for bringing us grandeur and the world. Merci, Jérôme.
© Joseph Lestrange
“Joseph Lestrange is the pseudonym of Joseph Lestrange, a writer from Washington, DC, who yearns to be with the most sensational ex-pat American woman in Paris.”