Controversial Societe Generale board head resigns

Societe GeneraleParis - The much-criticized head of the board of directors of French bank Societe Generale, Daniel Bouton, is stepping down. "I choose to depart to protect the bank. I have become the target of incessant criticism which will end by damaging this enterprise," the 59-year-old Bouton said in an interview published Wednesday in the daily Le Figaro.

Bouton admitted making mistakes and being "clumsy" during his tenure as the bank's general director, which began in 1997, but said that the criticism had become "unbearable."

Bouton took a great deal of criticism in the wake of the revelation in January 2008 that a Societe General trader, Jerome Kerviel, had lost 4.9 billion euros (6.5 billion dollars) by carrying out unauthorized trades for as long as a year.

He tendered his resignation at the time, but it was rejected. Instead, in May of last year he moved from being the bank's general director to heading its board.

Bouton came under fire again in March of this year when he and three other bank executives accepted tens of thousands of stock options, a decision that was reversed when the bank came under heavy fire from President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Obviously, some people are having trouble understanding what we are saying. Wherever there are layoffs, wherever there is state aid, bonuses and stocks options are unacceptable," Sarkozy said at the time.

Societe Generale has received 1.7 billion euros in loans from the government to see it through the financial crisis.

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