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Former Goldman Programmer Sentenced To 97 Months

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  • Shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2011 @02:40PM (#35543308)

    It's a shame this is the only guy from GS who went to jail...

    • If the same principle applied to this as it does to bank losses, every US resident would have to serve about five sixths of a second in jail.

    • by unassimilatible (225662) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @03:42PM (#35543744) Journal
      A million dollars buys you a lot.

      Barack Obama (D)
      Top Contributors

      University of California $1,591,395
      Goldman Sachs $994,795
      Harvard University $854,747
      Microsoft Corp $833,617
      Google Inc $803,436
      Citigroup Inc $701,290
      JPMorgan Chase & Co $695,132
      Time Warner $590,084
      Sidley Austin LLP $588,598
      Stanford University $586,557
      National Amusements Inc $551,683
      UBS AG $543,219
      Wilmerhale Llp $542,618
      Skadden, Arps et al $530,839
      IBM Corp $528,822
      Columbia University $528,302
      Morgan Stanley $514,881
      General Electric $499,130

      http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638 [opensecrets.org]
      • by Lennie (16154)

        I wonder where the University of California gets it's money from.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by rbayer (1911926)

          If you read the link where these numbers came from (I know, that would be WAY uncool around here), you'll see that "The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families."

          Do you really think the University of California as an institution gave $1.5 million to Obama? Of course not, but add up all the generally left-leaning faculty, staff, grad students, and alumni across all the

          • by SeaFox (739806)

            So in other words, a bunch of people decided to donate money to political campaigns and if we group them based on what companies they're employed by or institutions they're affiliated with this is what we get.

            The fact the total of all those donations comes up to 1.5 million for Uni. of California doesn't say anything about the intent of those donations. The list is written to suggest the donations are all concerted efforts to make large contributions to a political campaigns in hopes of favors from the admi

          • by Lennie (16154)

            "If you read the link where these numbers came from"

            Ohhh, is that what it is for. ;-)

      • by Grismar (840501) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @03:54PM (#35543826)

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not so naïve to believe US politics (or any Western country's politics for that matter) are free of corruption. But you're right there on the other end of the spectrum: making everyone supporting a political cause with money suspect.

        If you think that's somehow helpful, power to you, but I don't see how it is. Of course you could be of the opinion that supporting a political cause with money is a bad thing for exactly that reason, but believing that would stop everyone from doing it would be no less naïve...

        • by unassimilatible (225662) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @04:15PM (#35543964) Journal
          As his Treasury Secretary's chief of staff. How's that for influence? And GE's CEO is on his economic team.

          Question for you: If money doesn't buy influence, why do companies donate to candidates? And don't say because they are true believers - most donate to both sides.
          • I'm guessing there is some truth to that last comment... not so much "true believers" but they give money to people they think will support their cause/initiative. Of course Unions are going to give money to Democratic candidates because they are more likely to support collective bargaining agreements and the concept of unions. Just like business, the oil industry gives money to Alaskan senators and pro oil drilling people. I'm sure there are plenty of Unions who contribute to republicans and plenty of busi
            • But hedged their bets by giving some to McCain, who ironically was leading in the polls until Lehman failed. Maybe these Goldman analysts are pretty damn smart after all. "Hey, we banks are a house of cards about to implode, so let's go with the guy who won't get blamed as 'Bush's third term.'" But just in case, we'll throw McCain some scraps as well.

              Goldman Sachs: Recipients
              2008 Cycle

              Senate Obama, Barack (D-IL) $995,745
              Senate Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) $401,950
              Delegate Romney, Mitt (R) $235,275
              Sena
              • by wisty (1335733)

                And that's just the presidential candidates. Giving money to a presidential campaign has sweet-FA ROI. They don't need the money (their PR flacks will work for the love and fame, and the ads they buy will be nothing compared to the more independent media circus - look at how much free advertising Obama got just by being, well, Obama); and they are under enormous scrutiny. If the President pardons the head of GS, it kinda smells a bit funny.

                A grunt congressman has virtually no free help, no free coverage, an

        • by nbauman (624611)

          making everyone supporting a political cause with money suspect.

          I suspect that some people support political candidates as a quid pro quo for government favors in return. In some cases, like military contractors, it seems obvious. Their PAC contributes to the Democratic candidate, and to the Republican running against him. What's their motivation? Once in the while politicians go to jail when they get caught on tape admitting it.

          But putting straightforward quid pro quo aside, the problem is with the system that requires politicians to raise hundreds of millions of dolla

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        I thought Campaign Laws forbade giving more than $5000. How do they skirt around that rule?

        • by Teun (17872)
          From a site mentioned above:

          The organizations themselves did not donate , rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

          Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together many individual contributions are often among the top donors to presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the organization's members or employees (and the

      • by Teun (17872)
        Ah that's why McCain lost:

        Merrill Lynch $373,595
        Citigroup Inc $322,051
        Morgan Stanley $273,452
        Goldman Sachs $230,095
        JPMorgan Chase & Co $228,107
        US Government $208,379
        AT&T Inc $201,438
        Wachovia Corp $195,063
        UBS AG $192,493
        Credit Suisse Group $183,353
        PricewaterhouseCoopers $167,900
        US Army $167,820
        Bank of America $166,026
        Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher $159,596
        Blank Rome LLP $154,226
        Greenberg Traurig LLP $146,437
        US Dept of Defense $144,105
        FedEx Corp $131,974
        Bear Stearns
        • by Raenex (947668)

          Ah that's why McCain lost:

          correlation != cause. McCain got less money because it was obvious he was losing.

          Next time forget about voting, just tally the contributions.

          Or just watch the polls. The last election wasn't close except for a brief time after the Sarah Palin hail mary.

        • US Army $167,820
          US Dept of Defense $144,105

          Wait, WHAT?

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      So Goldman Sachs is pissed that someone that works for them stole something? Well, that's a switch.

      America, how I love thee...

      It's like the story of two con men who worked together on a scam, then, when they were splitting up the take, one says to the other, "You wouldn't cheat me, would you?"

  • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Saturday March 19, 2011 @02:43PM (#35543334) Homepage
    ...are those who USE this algorithm.
    • by yorugua (697900) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @03:33PM (#35543704)

      You mean to do this: http://www.cpeterson.org/2011/03/10/why-gas-is-so-expensive-today-hint-its-not-libya/ [cpeterson.org]

      from TFA:

      in 1991, J. Aron—the Goldman subsidiary—wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the government agency overseeing this market) and asked for one measly exception to the rules.

      The whole definition of physical hedgers was needlessly restrictive, J. Aron argued. Sure, a corn farmer who bought futures contracts to hedge the risk of a glut in corn prices had a legitimate reason to be hedging his bets. After all, being a farmer was risky! Anything could happen to a farmer, what with nature being involved and all!

      Everyone who grew any kind of crop was taking a risk, and it was only right and natural that the government should allow these good people to buy futures contracts to offset that risk.

      But what about people on Wall Street? Were not they, too, like farmers, in the sense that they were taking a risk, exposing themselves to the whims of economic nature? After all, a speculator who bought up corn also had risk—investment risk. So, Goldman’s subsidiary argued, why not allow the poor speculator to escape those cruel position limits and be allowed to make transactions in unlimited amounts? Why even call him a speculator at all? Couldn’t J. Aron call itself a physical hedger too? After all, it was taking real risk—just like a farmer!

      On October 18, 1991, the CFTC-in the person of Laurie Ferber, an appointee of the first President Bush—agreed with J. Aron’s letter. Ferber wrote that she understood that Aron was asking that its speculative activity be recognized as “bona fide hedging”—and, after a lot of jargon and legalese, she accepted that argument. This was the beginning of the end for position limits and for the proper balance between physical hedgers and speculators in the energy markets.

      To look at this another way—just to make it easy—let’s create something we call the McDonaldland Menu Index (MMI). The MMI is based upon the price of eleven McDonald’s products, including the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder, the shake, fries, and hash browns. Let’s say the total price of those eleven products on November l, 2010, is $37.90. Now let’s say you bet $1,000 on the McDonaldland Menu Index on that date, November 1. A month later, the total price of those eleven products is now $39.72.

      Well, gosh, that’s a 4.8 percent price increase. Since you put $1,000 into the MMI on November 1, on December 1 you’ve now got $1,048. A smart investment!

      Just to be clear—you didn’t actually buy $1,000 worth of Big Macs and fries and shakes. All you did is bet $1,000 on the prices of Big Macs and fries and shakes.

      But here’s the thing: if you were just some schmuck on the street and you wanted to gamble on this nonsense, you couldn’t do it, because your behavior would be speculative and restricted under that old 1936 Commodity Exchange Act, which supposedly maintained that delicate balance between speculator and physical hedger (i.e., the real producers/consumers). Same goes for a giant pension fund or a trust that didn’t have one of those magic letters. Even if you wanted into this craziness, you couldn’t get in, because it was barred to the Common Speculator. The only way for you to get to the gaming table was, in essence, to rent the speculator-hedger exemption that the government had quietly given to companies like Goldman Sachs via those sixteen letters.

      • by bmo (77928)

        >But what about people on Wall Street? Were not they, too, like farmers

        The difference between Wall Street and the farmer next door, is that the farmer creates wealth. The Wall Street trader does not create wealth. At all. Ever.

        The argument fails on its first premise. Argument is invalid.

        --
        BMO

        • by khallow (566160)

          The Wall Street trader does not create wealth. At all. Ever.

          Creates markets, provides liquidity, expedites trades. There's the value and consequently, the wealth that Wall Street creates.

          • by bmo (77928)

            Liquidity and trades are not wealth. And Wall Street does not create markets. The markets are already there, whether the traders exist or not.

            It's moving wealth around.

            And skimming off the top, honestly (or dishonestly).

            --
            BMO

      • by sjames (1099)

        100% of this could be solved with a simple rule. Each time you buy, a random number is consulted. If your number comes up, you get physical delivery, ready or not. If you don't want your swimming pool and bath tub filled with crude oil, you'd better be a legitimate buyer and not just a commodities gambler.

        None of the trading actually does the economy any good at all, it judt drives up prices fro consumers while driving them down for producers while the traders skim off the top.

        • by Gorobei (127755)

          Well, that seems rather a stupid idea, unless your plan is to shut down the market for all but the big players. Or maybe you think stuff like storage tanks cannot be rented.

          Here's a hint: all the big speculators in oil also have contracts out on oil tanker leases, barges, storage facilities, etc. If you ever see a Wall St commod desk, your mind will be blown. Realtime tracking and modeling of all energy in the world: tanker locations and speeds, electrical generating facilities realtime status (yes, a f

          • by sjames (1099)

            I want to shut the market down for all but actual producers, consumers, and distributors actually transporting product. The problematic speculators are not prepared to take physical delivery and then sell and deliver to someone with an actual use of the oil. If they can and regularly do, they are then distributors, not commodities speculators. They get to deal with realities like oil takes up space and food spoils if it sits in a warehouse, and that makes them behave more reasonably. Note that this includes

            • by Gorobei (127755)

              I want to shut the market down for all but actual producers, consumers, and distributors actually transporting product.

              But how can you do that, and why would you want to? Oil prices, for example, are affected by nat gas prices, so it is not a closed system. Additionally, speculation injects capital, so the market doesn't freeze in response to short term shocks.

              The problematic speculators are not prepared to take physical delivery and then sell and deliver to someone with an actual use of the oil. If they can and regularly do, they are then distributors, not commodities speculators. They get to deal with realities like oil takes up space and food spoils if it sits in a warehouse, and that makes them behave more reasonably.

              But, if you try to punish speculators with random rules, firms will arb out the problem by providing one stop shopping that deals with your edge cases (for a fee, of course.) This is largely why exchanges exist in the first place: make it easy for people to transa

              • by sjames (1099)

                We know what a pure speculator is, someone who, unlike a distributor, has no warehouse and unlike a broker, has no buyer lined up when he makes a buy, and unlike a consumer, has no use for the commodity other than to sell it's futures.

                I have heard the excuses about injecting capital, liquidity, etc, but it just doesn't ring true. Demand for commodities doesn't go away and supply rarely does. The high speed traders on Wall Street make similar claims but that rings false as well. The economy got along better

                • by khallow (566160)

                  The economy got along better without them both for decades.

                  But that was before the bleeding hearts killed the golden goose. You need sensible, low levels of regulation and considerable reduction in entitlement spending in order to have an economy that would grow at the US's old rates in the 50s and 60s.

                  If you have a better idea to push the pure gamblers out and allow the business of matching sincere buyers and sellers together, I am open to suggestion. I suppose we could just shoot them, but that seems a bit drastic :-)

                  Here's the better idea. Doing nothing solves the non-problem.

                  • by sjames (1099)

                    Those issues are orthogonal. The economy overall has done well enough except where inadequate regulation allowed Wall Street to sink it while they lined their own pockets with taxpayer money. The problem is that too much of it got skimmed off by non-productive parasites in the market.

                    In the '50s and '60s taxation was more progressive, meaning higher rates and less loopholes for the richest segment. The people with the sense of entitlement are mostly those who could honestly retire right now and live out the

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      The economy overall has done well enough except where inadequate regulation allowed Wall Street to sink it while they lined their own pockets with taxpayer money.

                      In other words, the regulation was "inadequate" because it existed. Can't line your pockets with taxpayer money, if you don't have access.

                      In the '50s and '60s taxation was more progressive, meaning higher rates and less loopholes for the richest segment.

                      There's no evidence that the effective tax rate for the richest has changed since the Second World War (and taxation hasn't been progressive at the highest levels for a long time). Back then, they would have used trusts or manipulated taxable income to some other category. Tax avoidance is cheaper than tax payment.

                      The economy is a construct of man, it has no rights and no life of it's own. It exists to serve all of the people, never the other way around.

                      Moral bullshit. A tool's value is determined by how well a

                    • by sjames (1099)

                      In other words, the regulation was "inadequate" because it existed. Can't line your pockets with taxpayer money, if you don't have access.

                      WoW! You didn't just drink the kool-aid, you're mainlining it! In other words it was inadequate because it didn't send crooked investment bankers to jail before their fraudulent bonds crashed the economy and it allowed them to get so big that we were stuck bailing them out (note that was done by a Republican) or fall into an even deeper depression.

                      There's no evidence that the effective tax rate for the richest has changed since the Second World War (and taxation hasn't been progressive at the highest levels for a long time). Back then, they would have used trusts or manipulated taxable income to some other category. Tax avoidance is cheaper than tax payment.

                      Wow again! Two can play at that, there is no evidence you're not a new version of Eliza so I win!

                      If by no evidence you mean other than the actual tax laws in effe

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @02:47PM (#35543362) Homepage Journal

    ...if all the top Goldman CEOs were put in jail for 8 years for their stunts that put the country into a major recession.

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      ...if all the top Goldman CEOs were put in jail for 8 years for their stunts that put the country into a major recession.

      A public execution in lieu of a football season would make everyone's day.

      • Now now (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @03:28PM (#35543670) Journal

        Now now... I know those guys are hated, and caused a global recession to line their pockets, and were giving themselves gigantic bonuses just as they were being bailed out by the government, and all, but that's no excuse to go back to barbaric times. Two wrongs don't make a right, ok? There's no reason to deprive the people of football for that.

        Do what the Romans used to: have the executions at halftime :p

        • Executions? Have them fight it out. One gets to live.

      • by russotto (537200)

        A public execution in lieu of a football season would make everyone's day.

        Why "in lieu of"? Shouldn't take any longer than halftime.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Execution might be too much. But there should be some penalty that is a deterrent, and a punishment that is felt. The punishment they did get is like asking a shoplifter who walked out with arms full of merchandise to return a candy bar.

        The mafia could learn a thing from these guys about how to avoid consequences.

        • by khallow (566160)

          Execution might be too much. But there should be some penalty that is a deterrent, and a punishment that is felt.

          We're seeing it. Your humiliation and occasional financial ruin is the collective punishment that the global public deserves for going along with this idiocy.

          Bankruptcy is the deterrent for the banker and those who are supposed to be controlling him. After all, the number one reason they aren't being punished is because they didn't commit a crime in the first place.

    • by pitchpipe (708843)
      Keep fucking dreaming! The only people who serve time when committing crimes in the U.S. are those without money.
      • Aleynikov was getting paid $400K/year and had just been hired away by another company at 3 times that salary. Nowhere near the upper echelons of wealth, but certainly not someone who could be described as "without money".

        He doesn't deserve 8 years. I can't imagine Goldman really wanted this to go to trial. I wonder if his legal counsel was particularly incompetent or if he was just thickheaded enough to insist on a trial for a crime he admitted to.

    • I'm no fan of the investment banks - I think they have long passed from capitalists to parasites on real business.

      But, in fairness, if the Fed hadn't pumped the credit bubble with low interest rates, Fannie and Freddie hadn't helped by pumping it further by buying endless questionable loans, letting banks make more loans that they simply couldn't have otherwise, and had greedy home "buyers" not bought homes they couldn't afford, thinking they'd flip them anyway for a profit, those derivatives that Goldma
      • The only thing which separates Fed employees from Wallstreet is a couple of years and a career change (either way).

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        The problem is, the responsibility of the Fed is very narrowly defined. It's basically responsible for the inflation and unemployment, and that's all (and really, it should stay this way).

        The Fed is not responsible for auditing banks for predatory lending practice or regulating the derivatives. Had the Fed raised the rates, the USA (and probably the rest of the world) would have gone into a recession which would have stopped the predatory lending. But the moment the rates were lowered again, the predatory l

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        The real problem from what I have read is the bond rating agencies. Someone, say Goldman, would package a bunch of questionable home mortgages together to sell bonds in support of. All anyone knew about these mortgages was the average credit score of the borrowers - that was all the information they had. Moody's (and the other two whose names escape me now) would then "rate" these bonds.

        Well, the idiotic thing was that Moody's would rate 80 percent of the bonds as AAA, or investment grade. The other 20%

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        People point to Fannie/Freddie, but they just followed along with what other banks were doing, they weren't the leaders or the instigators. Sure, they have some culpability but every time I hear someone point to them it sounds like someone trying to deflect blame from the real villains.

        • That there were plenty of villains. But a government-created enterprise, which wouldn't have existed in an actual free-market, buying up loans, allowing banks to make more loans (which they otherwise couldn't have under capital requirements), clearly added to the problem. Of course the Countrywides and American Home Mortgages were villains as well. But why were, uh, are government-created, taxpayer-backed monsters adding to the problem? Countrywide and AHM are long gone, but Freddie and Fannie are still buy
  • Stool Pidgeon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Saturday March 19, 2011 @02:53PM (#35543404)
    How many Goldman employees went to jail for stealing taxpayer dollars?
  • A little crazy... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SomePgmr (2021234) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @02:56PM (#35543434) Homepage
    Pushing the code off to a free hosting service is highly questionable, even if he claims he meant to be moving OSS and screwed up. But wow... 97 months for "interstate transportation of stolen property"? If it's still the case that he didn't use or distribute that source, and even cooperated all along... that seems awfully harsh.
  • I wish we could get away from using the words "steal" and "theft" to describe making a copy of somebody's data. You could call it a copyright violation, or a violation of a legally-enforced monopoly. Both of those descriptions create a more accurate understanding for the public of what's going on than the word "stealing" does.

    If you sneak into a library, take a book, and never return it, everybody would agree that you "stole" the book. But if you take home a library book, type up a copy for yourself, th
    • This was "trade secret" algorighms, not "copyright infringement". It was part of the crown jewels of Goldman Sachs business, and our convicted felon took it with him to his start up. What, precisely, did you think they were offering him triple the salary _for_ if not for his knowledge of these technologies and these algorithms?

      Now, the whole "high speed trading" needs to be halted outright. The idea that a few microseconds difference in access to such information is being used to fund billions of dollars of

  • is this a white collar 'campus' prison with conjugal visits, or a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison?
  • by Dan667 (564390) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @03:24PM (#35543634)
    for any of their abuses?
  • Well, I think there is a clear message here. If you're a talented programmer, never ever work for Goldman Sachs!

  • This case makes it clear that potential risks involved in working for Goldman Sachs in technical position just not worth the risk. Likely that very few tech people are senior partners which is the only way to make any serious money there. From the circumstances of the case it seems that Aleynikov got sued because he pissed off his manager by taking higher paying position elsewhere and making it known. Unfortunately for him GS has deep connections in the government so banal civil case got blown out into crim

    • by gravos (912628)

      I tend to agree with you, but in this economy I doubt they are going to have any trouble finding workers

  • I'm usually against conspiracy theories (real life is full of surprises), but such harsh judgment also make me think that prosecution and judge are huge friends with Goldman (it is just a theory, of course - it could be prosecution which feels all warm inside thinking about Goldman and incompetent judge). I mean, stealing code which is not your own is bad, but 8 years?! People with more far reaching consequences don't get even 4! Ok, I know, US is strange place for justice, but come on!

    As side note, I think

    • by oh2 (520684)
      Harsh sentence compared to most violent crimes Id say. Few rape sentences run that long for instance.
  • So, as I understand it, a programmer was sentenced to 97 years in prison for stealing the algorithm that Goldman Sachs used to steal money from other people.

    The single most critical element of any market, including a stock market, is that it is, “fair.” That means, the same price and the same terms for everybody. In fact, these are the same words used by the NY stock exchange and NASDAQ.

    But how is using super computers for millisecond arbitrage “equal terms for everybody?”

    How do

    • by BeanThere (28381)

      Millisecond-arbitrage is the least of Goldman's 'evils'. Robbing taxpayers via "stimulus", dodgy bail-outs, and crony corruption at high political levels seem far worse ... and that's where they get the cash for the bonuses.

      Just using super-computers for millisecond arbitrage doesn't seem too egregious ---- ANYONE can benefit from that, if it's profitable, by just investing their money with Goldman. And if you invest money with an investment firm, wouldn't you want them to manage the money in a way that giv

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