Stanley Pignal (FT 2008-2012)
Thursday 24 January 2008 was meant to be my penultimate day as an FT intern. The atmosphere in the newsroom was particularly electric that day: Societe Generale, the French bank, had just announced a €5bn loss. An unidentified “rogue trader” was to blame, apparently. The bank wasn’t saying any more.
Out of curiosity, I called a plugged-in contact working on a Paris trading floor, whom I’d known from my days working as a financial analyst at Shell. Nothing. And another two, three, four: still no luck. Someone eventually suggested a “Jean-Marie” was to blame; I got a list of all the Jean-Maries at SocGen and called all 18 of them (reasoning the culprit would not be at his desk). The phone receiver didn’t touch its base for a couple of hours. Finally, out of the blue, a text message from a reliable source containing two words: “Jerome Kerviel”. Through the switchboard, I called Kerviel’s desk. A nervous colleague said she’d been told not to comment and that all queries should go to the press office. She’d unwittingly confirmed my scoop.
It took a while for a colleague to get the crucial second source, during which a SocGen contact agreed to meet me to hand over a picture of Kerviel, as well as a phone number. I prayed that it remained the FT’s exclusive, which it did.
Later that day, I was summoned to the editor’s office to be congratulated on my scoop. As deadlines loomed, he asked whether I could come back the following week instead. I replied that Friday was, in fact, to be my last day. Lionel Barber looked bemused. “Your time at the FT has been extended,” he said. The following day I signed a staff contract.