Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bouton on France2

Daniel Bouton, the head of Société Générale, appeared on the 8 PM news on France2 last night to do damage control. Metaphor continues to run riot. As I mentioned yesterday, the image of the ship in a storm requiring a seasoned captain to remain at the helm continues to be popular. Bouton used it. But then he compared Jérôme Kerviel's feat in circumventing the bank's controls to that of a daredevil leaping from a speeding car in flames to another alongside it. This seemed a less than inspired choice, since it portrayed the bank as a blazing automobile careening out of control--which may well be accurate but hardly an image that a crackerjack PR firm would have chosen, suggesting that SG may be in such dire straits that it has had to cut the public relations budget drastically. When David Pujadas pushed the banker to comment on Kerviel's testimony that circumventing the bank's safeguards had been child's play and required no sophisticated knowledge, Bouton's answer was classic: How can you believe a man guilty of such a colossal fraud? Again, any competent advisor would have counseled against such a non sequitur.

Bouton also emphasized repeatedly that SG employs 130,000 people. The rest, we are asked to believe, are not only as honest as the day is long but deeply committed to the bank and its present management. So we were meant to gather, as well, from the brief segments of employees demonstrating in favor of management outside SG headquarters in La Défense and of employees at a branch office in Montpellier offering their support. These manifestations of solidarity touched Bouton deeply, he said, and he brought his hands to his chest to emphasize his emotion.

I hope he's better at finance than he is at la com.

1 comment:

Quico said...

This post made me laugh out loud all the way through. My God, is this the vaunted elite the grands ecoles produce?

If Kerviel can demonstrate he was doing his thang with the tacit support of his higher ups, Bouton is breaking rule 1 of scandal management: when you find yourself in a hole, first, stop digging.

Not being a SocGen customer or shareholder, I can afford to issue a hearty "pass the popcorn!" looks like there'll be some top flight entertainment flowing out of this scandal for some time to come.