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SocGen chairman Bouton resigns after public pressure Add to ...

Daniel Bouton, the chairman of Societe Generale whose reputation was hit by a trading scandal at the bank, said on Wednesday he would resign in the wake of repeated criticism over his performance.

"I have decided to put an end to my mandate as chairman of the board of directors of Societe Generale as of May 6. The board will elect a new chairman at its meeting on that same day," Mr. Bouton said in a statement.

Mr. Bouton was dealt a blow in January 2008 when SocGen unveiled €4.9-billion ($6.4-billion U.S.) of losses caused by unauthorized trades conducted by Jerome Kerviel, a former junior trader at the French bank.

Mr. Bouton previously held the joint role of chief executive and chairman but public outcry over the Kerviel scandal led him to step down from the chief executive position last year.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticised Mr. Bouton over the Kerviel affair, and Mr. Sarkozy's administration again attacked the bank last month over executive pay packages.

In March, SocGen's top managers decided to give up stock options following public criticism over the fact that money received from the French state to help it through the financial crisis could be used to remunerate executives.

SocGen shares were up 0.4 per cent at €36.25 in early morning trade, underperforming a 1.3 per cent rise in the DJ Stoxx European bank sector.

Analysts and fund managers said Mr. Bouton's resignation had been expected for some time.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the bank's financial performance. It was due to the political pressure," said one analyst who declined to be named.

SocGen said it would elect a new chairman on May 6, the day before it publishes first-quarter results, and many were already speculating as to who the new chairman might be.

French radio station Europe 1 said Mr. Bouton could be replaced by former PSA Peugeot Citroen head Jean-Martin Folz, while another Paris fund manager said SocGen chief executive Frederic Oudea could decide to also take on the chairman role.

"The problem now for the bank is how to ensure an orderly handover of the baton from Bouton," said Agilis Gestion fund manager Arnaud Scarpaci.

Reyl France fund manager Dorothee Marty said she would prefer SocGen to choose a banker for its next chairman rather than someone from outside the financial industry.

In his resignation statement, Mr. Bouton said repeated public criticism had influenced his decision to quit.

"The repeated attacks against me personally in France for the past 15 months affect me, but most of all, they risk harming the bank and its 163,000 employees," he said.

Following last month's controversy over the executive pay packages, SocGen again found itself in the firing line this week when it denied a front-page headline in newspaper Liberation of a new financial scandal at the bank.

Mr. Bouton had been a staunch defender of SocGen's independence.

In 1999, he helped repel a takeover bid by cross-town rival BNP Paribas and when the bank again became vulnerable to a possible bid in the wake of the Kerviel debacle, Mr. Bouton reiterated SocGen's desire to see off any predators.

Analysts said Mr. Bouton's resignation was unlikely to reignite the longstanding speculation of an eventual tie-up between BNP Paribas and SocGen, mainly since any such merger would likely result in large-scale job losses.

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