I once had a situation at work where I forward billed £350,000 into the last month of a year and reported 60% profit against it, fudged a bunch of WIP for the auditors and then feverishly spent the next 4 months of the next financial year trying to get jobs passed that would deliver that £175,000. The company was a nightmare to work for and stressed me beyond belief. Incidentally I sat on the board of that company with Michael Howard and Steven Norris (oops proabably shouldn't have said that should I). Now if you're Paul you can stop shaking your head now.
However, if you're Jean-Pierre Mustier of Societe Generale it's the kind of money you find down the back of a sofa when you're looking to pay the pools man.
3 and a half billion quid.
Just to put that into perspective that's 4 Wembley's... sorry bad example. How about 80% of the channel tunnel rail link errr. Oh I don't know how about if you put all of that in fivers end to end it would go to Mars and back. Errrr... it's a fuck of a lot of money isn't it.
Now by all accounts this bloke pulled a salary of less than £50K. In bank terms that's one above cleaner. So how did he get away with it? Well apparently it was a complex administrative fudge. But come on, surely someone must have twigged. When Nick Leeson blew just a quarter of that sum... i.e. one Wembley stadium, sorry I'll stop the silly analogies now... he was basically a lone man sat in a back office in Singapore. This guy did it in the Paris office of France's biggest bank.
Either Jean-Pierre is the worst scapegoat in history and tomorrow we'll find out that it was a systematic plot from board down or, the entire process at Societe Generale needs tearing to shreds and rebuilding from scratch, starting with a clear out of most of the back room staff.
It's a quite extraordinary tale of city excess and just seems so apt as we head towards recession, which in the weeks leading up to Christmas, just a month ago was denied by every financial bod I heard doing a review of 2008.
'Oh no, no, no we'll certainly see a slow down, but confidence is high and we'll bounce after Christmas' confidence is high my arse.
I only have one city friend who admits to needing the attention of Gamblers Anonymous. If a few more owned up and stopped pretending it wasn't a glorified bookies, we'd be better off.