World and Nation

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Trader Tells Prosecutors Boss Saw Illicit Deal

Jerome Kerviel, the former trader at the bank Societe Generale, has told French investigators that an assistant on his desk conducted at least one large fictitious transaction last spring on their boss’ computer — as the boss looked on, according to a court document obtained Thursday by The International Herald Tribune.

The testimony was an indication that Kerviel was continuing to press his claim that his superiors knew that he was amassing trades that the bank later blamed for losses of nearly 5 billion euros ($7.1 billion).

But according to the document, the supervisor, Eric Cordelle, denied Kerviel’s assertions in a hearing with investigating judges on March 6, saying that he did not even have the necessary software on his computer, the document shows.

On a second occasion, however, Cordelle admitted that he had witnessed Kerviel entering trades on the computer of a trainee and even confronted him. There was no indication that he ever followed up.

For Spitzer, Lawyers Prepare to Do Battle

As Gov. Eliot Spitzer begins the delicate dance of fending off criminal charges in the federal prostitution case that led to his resignation on Wednesday morning, he is being helped by an august legal team that blends the comforts of the familiar with an insider’s understanding of power politics.

Spitzer, whose own law license could become a casualty of the case, has enlisted three partners from the distinguished Manhattan law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, renowned for white-collar criminal defense work. He has not been charged with any crime, but has been identified as one of the clients of the Emperor’s Club VIP, a high-priced online escort ring, who were caught on tape through a federal wiretap that resulted in four arrests last week.

Michele Hirshman, 49, a former top aide to Spitzer from his days as state attorney general and a friend, is in charge of the team, a spokeswoman for the law firm said Thursday. She will be assisted, as the matter goes forward, by two of the firm’s heaviest legal hitters, Theodore V. Wells Jr., 57, co-chairman of the litigation department, and Mark F. Pomerantz, 56, a former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, the very agency that was considering Spitzer’s fate.

As Dollar Falls, Prices Rise

Almost everything seems to be going wrong for the American economy at once. People are buying less, but most things are costing more. Mortgage rates are rising, the dollar is falling and prices of key commodities like oil are leaping from one record high to the next.

On Thursday, the dollar plumbed new lows against the Japanese yen and several other major currencies; the price of an ounce of gold jumped above $1,000 for the first time; and lenders raised home loan rates once again. Government figures showed retail sales fell in February as consumers cut back on cars, furniture and electronics.

Stocks fell sharply after the retail sales report was released early in the day, and a large investment fund said it was nearing collapse. The volatility that has defined the market lately continued unabated. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 2 percent in the morning, then rebounded partly in reaction to a report that said banks were nearing the end of subprime mortgage losses. It was up nearly 1 percent in the afternoon before paring that gain to close up 0.5 percent, to 1,315.48 points.