SocGen deputy CEO Valet is said to leave over Libor scandal

PARIS • Societe Generale SA (SocGen) deputy CEO Didier Valet (picture) is leaving the company after a disagreement over a case that sees the bank accused of manipulating Libor, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The French bank said late on Wednesday that Valet will be stepping down without severance pay after a “divergence of approaches” on a specific legal case, without giving more information. His departure should help efforts to resolve the Libor case, the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private.

The executive resigned “in order to preserve the bank’s general interests”, Paris-based SocGen said in the statement.

The bank said in November that it was in talks to potentially settle a US investigation into the alleged manipulation of the Libor interest rate, as well as a probe into accusations of bribery in Libya.

CEO Frederic Oudea repeated in February that SocGen has “the objective to put these litigations behind us in the next weeks or months”.

Valet didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment through the bank and via LinkedIn.

Valet, the bank’s former CFO who was overseeing its investment bank, was considered a potential successor to the firm’s top job since being named one of three deputy CEOs in January 2017.

Oudea is temporarily taking over Valet’s functions and a replacement will be announced shortly, the bank said.

“Valet was pivotal in SocGen’s repositioning over the recent years, implementing a capital strategy with a niche focus on structured products,” Maxence Le Gouvello, an analyst at Jefferies who recommends buying the stock, wrote in a note yesterday. “His departure is a serious challenge for the group.”

SocGen declined as much as 4.3% in Paris before paring losses to trade about 3% lower at €43.69 as of 11:54am local time yesterday.

SocGen had €2.3 billion (RM10.97 billion) set aside for legal risks at the end of December, taking into account proceedings with US authorities including the Office of Foreign Assets Control and a dispute over French tax treatment of some assets the bank bought more than 10 years ago.

Valet had joined the firm in 2000 as an analyst and became CFO eight years later. In 2012, Valet became head of SocGen’s corporate and investment bank, which houses one of the largest global equity derivatives businesses.

SocGen’s trading unit weathered the low volatility of late 2017 better than some rivals as revenue from equities and prime services jumped in the fourth quarter.

“It is a challenge for us to reconcile the warm words of the press release, a departure ‘to preserve the bank’s general interest’, and the absence of compensation,” analyst Jean-Pierre Lambert at KBW Research said in a note to investors. “The communication by the bank generates more questions than it provides answers.” — Bloomberg