The Oslo Stock Exchange was everything to Erik Jarve: his job, his hobby, almost his family.

Hours after the stock exchange president was fired on suspicion of financial wrong-doing, he was found drowned. The apparent suicide shocked the close-knit business community in Norway, a country of 4.3 million people.This week, his lawyer wondered whether the stock exchange board hadn't been too heavy-handed in dealing with a man who had devoted his life to the exchange.

"Was it necessary to fire him on the spot?" attorney Jon Lyng asked in newspaper interviews.

"They choose the harshest possible response: namely, telling someone to walk out the door and clean out their desk," Lyng said.

At the exchange, traders tried to conduct business as usual.

That is what Jarve, an influential part of the exchange for 25 years, would have wanted.

"It takes more than one day to get over something like this," said exchange spokesman Roy Hal-vor-sen. "At least we have our work."

Halvorsen said Jarve was offered a suspension while the allegations were being investigated. But he had said that was no better than being fired.

Jarve joined the stock exchange at 25 and was appointed president in 1977 at age 33, its youngest head ever. He developed a reputation as an anti-corruption crusader.

"He fell from his own principles and couldn't live with it," the Oslo business newspaper Dagens Naering-slive said. "Erik Jarve was the Oslo Stock Exchange. The Oslo Stock Exchange was Erik Jarve."

Fifty-year-old Jarve, in his trademark dark suits and shaggy beard, often vowed he would leave the exchange only when they carried him out.

It didn't turn out that way. He was fired Monday when the exchange's board of directors accused him of improperly using his position to benefit his family.

Hours later colleagues discovered a farewell letter and his family began a search. Police found Jarve's body in the sea near his summer cabin, 60 miles southwest of Oslo.

Police said they assumed he had drowned but refused to give more details, except that he was apparently alone at the time. That indicated suicide.

"It's tragic. He has been an institution at the exchange," said acting exchange director Kjell Fronsdal. "The exchange was his life, his hobby, in a way his family, and a divorce (from it) seems to be more than he could bear."

Trading at the exchange dropped dramatically Tuesday, and stunned brokers and financial leaders held a brief memorial service there in honor of Jarve's achievements. Outside, the exchange flag flew at half-staff.

"It is difficult not to feel guilt," board chairwoman Elisbeth Wille said at a news conference. "The case is unbelievably tragic, and we will always have to live with this.

"At the same time, I believe it would have been difficult for us to handle the matter in any other way," Wille said.

The exchange said Jarve benefited indirectly by about $40,000 during negotiations for the purchase of a new computerized trading system.