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Letter to the Editor: Something out of it

By DON MERRILL
Salt Lake City

Editor:

There are three stories to the recent tumble in the markets. The first one is already lore. The Federal Reserve slashed its short term interest rate by three-quarters of a point soon after precipitous drops in Europe and Asia over fears of the American sub-prime mortgage mess.

The second is suspicion that the Fed really cut the rate because 31-year-old Jerome Kerviel, a trader for Societe' General, one of France's largest banks, had been accused of burning his bosses money at an online casino. By the time he was caught, he'd allegedly spent $7 billion. The rumblings are the Fed must've thought that much of a loss, on top of everything else might've pushed the market over, so they jumped in.

But the third story in this triptych is, by far, the most interesting. For days after story two surfaced, a variety of media commentators referred to Mr. Kerviel's incredible fraud. But they all seemed to end their judgment with the same line, "... and he didn't even make any money." How is it that thievery ranks up there with global financial collapse? Because it wasn't the thievery that annoyed the press.

The media is making an assumption. It is saying that although people don't like malfeasance, they figure that if someone is going to be bold enough to do something that big, they better at least be smart enough to get something out of it even if they don't totally get away with it. If the media really is our proxy, its criticism of Kervial gives a peek of how disappointed we as Americans can be for a scheme that can go from "The Sting" to "Dog Day Afternoon" because of poor planning. And it highlights our unabashed contempt not for criminals as much as for stupid criminals. The press asks, was Kerviel's thievery in anyway justifiable? Obviously not. But was his inability to get something, anything out of that much money annoying to us all? Clearly that's what they think.





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