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Crime Programming The Courts

Former Goldman Programmer's Conviction Overturned 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the convicted-and-acquitted-millions-of-times-per-minute dept.
i_want_you_to_throw_ writes "The legal woes will soon be over for Sergey Aleynikov, a former Goldman Sachs Group computer programmer who had been convicted of stealing part of the Wall Street bank's high-frequency trading code. A federal appeals court overturned his conviction and recommended acquittal. We previously discussed this story when he was sentenced to 97 months in prison. It will be interesting to see their reasoning (an opinion is to be released) as well as what this may mean for other programmers developing high frequency trading code."
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Former Goldman Programmer's Conviction Overturned

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  • by tragedy (27079) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:05PM (#39076817)

    High frequency trading code shouldn't be legal to use for trading in the first place. It doesn't provide anything useful ("liquidity" has no place in an investment system, it's only good for speculative investing, which is just gambling), and simply parasitically leaches from the market and destabilizes it. The people the programmer was working for are the ones who should be convicted.

    • 90% reduction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alexander_686 (957440) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:14PM (#39076917)

      Unless you count a 90% reduction in trading costs as “nothing”.

      Back in the day Market Makers would take $.125 to $.25 for every share traded. And woe to you if you were trying to sell more than 10k because then you would really be scalped. And then you had to add broker commissions on top of that.

      I would rather pay high frequency traders $.01 a share and have a deep liquid market then go back to the good old days

      • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:27PM (#39077089)

        Those fees are only a problem if you don't plan to hold on to your stock very long: after a few years or more of capital value change plus dividends, it's insignificant.

        What's that you say? You like to buy and sell on a timeframe of weeks? Well, that's speculation not investment, and we need less of that. I'm happy to have that anti-speculation incentive built-in.

        • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Informative)

          by mrops (927562) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:06PM (#39077629)

          That is the problem with the entire stock trading mentality. Stocks are viewed as commodity that makes the investor rich, no one views them as investing a company that will succeed with the investor's money.

          • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Interesting)

            by AuMatar (183847) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:30PM (#39077911)

            Because you aren't. If you were investing in a company, you'd be giving them capital to use for purchasing/hiring/research. Unless you're buying in an IPO or secondary, you're not giving the company any money at all. So it's not investing, it's legalized gambling where you wager on companies, not invest in them

            • Re:90% reduction (Score:4, Interesting)

              by ed1park (100777) <ed1park@h o t m a i l .com> on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:13PM (#39078499)

              Warren Buffett has a great solution for this. A 100% capital gains tax on short term investments! (less than 1 year)

              • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Interesting)

                by pclminion (145572) on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:55PM (#39079101)
                So if a company has a good long-term outlook and I buy in, and the stock does well for a period of time, then six months later the CEO dies in a car accident and is replaced by somebody who immediately starts running the company into the ground, I shouldn't be able to exit my position and take what little gains I can before they become losses? You want me to just hold on and get fucked because the situation changed dramatically? Am I supposed to read the future? It's one thing to speculate, it's another thing to be in for a long haul and decide (rationally!) to abort when things take a turn for the worse.
                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  You can exit your position and recover your original investment, just not any profit you may have gained in your short term scenario. Of course, your contrived example of the CEO dying and the company tanking probably means that you lost money anyway and since you only pay capital gains tax on gains, then your scenario would play out the same in today's market also.

                • So if a company has a good long-term outlook and I buy in, and the stock does well for a period of time, then six months later the CEO dies in a car accident and is replaced by somebody who immediately starts running the company into the ground

                  if that happened, you didn't do your homework in the first place so deal with the consequences. any company that lives and dies by a particular CEO is a bad investment.

                  a good example is steve j. people pretty much viewed him as *the* man with the plan, and the brain behind all of apple's recent success. did the company fall apart when he passed away? nope, stock is still going up. apple has built a culture around steve's thinking.

                  if you invested in apple because you thought steve was awesome, then you're a

                  • Re:90% reduction (Score:4, Interesting)

                    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gma i l . c om> on Saturday February 18, 2012 @07:42AM (#39084549)

                    a good example is steve j. people pretty much viewed him as *the* man with the plan, and the brain behind all of apple's recent success. did the company fall apart when he passed away? nope, stock is still going up. apple has built a culture around steve's thinking.

                    Well, let the body get cold before you get too carried away. Come back in a few years after they've been through a few product cycles without The Steve.

                    The last time he left it didn't work out so well.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by umghhh (965931)
              Not really true. The trade in stocks is a valid function of stock markets. This indeed provide liquidity and equalizes the prices between different market places. It is also not realistic to call people buying stock and selling it next day - speculators - this does not have to be the case and there may even be regulations forcing some of the actors to do so (pension funds or banks may be required to sell if certain things happen etc) . It is however not true that the frequent traders did decrease the price
              • That is, the previous post does not say that people putting money into the stock market are not investors but instead, speculators, because they are bad people or something.

                The reason for the difference is that most of the shares traded are not issued as new stock by any company.

                This means that when you buy the stock, you put money into the hands of another investor, not into the hands of the company.

                Of course a company that is willing to issue new shares will profit from a good history, but since issuing n

          • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Zak3056 (69287) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:33PM (#39077959) Journal

            That is the problem with the entire stock trading mentality. Stocks are viewed as commodity that makes the investor rich, no one views them as investing a company that will succeed with the investor's money.

            Given that so many companies don't pay dividends, I can't help but wonder what "investors" are actually investing in? I mean, I'll grant it's not true across the board, but pick any tech company, and if they're making money, it's for the sole purpose of sticking it in the bank. Apple has, what, $100B in the bank? To what end? It's not hard to see why we have this mentality, and why our market is all about finding a bigger idiot.

            FWIW, my money says that one day we're going to find that something like the Teamster's pension scandal has happened again.

            • Re:90% reduction (Score:4, Insightful)

              by pclminion (145572) on Friday February 17, 2012 @05:02PM (#39079215)

              Given that so many companies don't pay dividends, I can't help but wonder what "investors" are actually investing in?

              That's like asking, why have money? Money doesn't pay interest on itself, it just sits there, what good is it? The reason you accumulate it is the same reason you would accumulate stock -- you are betting on the proposition that the money (or stock) will provide sufficient value to be exchanged for things you want.

              When I hold on to cash, what I'm doing is betting that prices will go down. If I believe prices will go up I convert that money to something else. So I have a hard time understanding why buying and selling stock simply to profit from movement in price, is any different from the decision to hold money or spend it based on current trends of inflation.

            • Apple has, what, $100B in the bank? To what end?

              it's so when the start their eventual descent into stagnation, they'll be able to hang on for years making substandard products.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          In the good old days the number of short term traders were relatively rare, and those who were in the market were professionals. Today there are so many part timers in the market, almost all of them speculating rather than investing.

      • Re:90% reduction (Score:4, Insightful)

        by barc0001 (173002) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:37PM (#39077245)

        I don't think you understand how this works. The high frequency trading is literally placing thousands of orders milliseconds apart and 98% of the orders don't get filled or get rescinded, basically it's like spam. Algorithmic trading causes values to adjust outside of normal market forces, and there's strong suspicion that it was the cause of the 2010 Flash Crash.

        • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Informative)

          by Rockoon (1252108) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:53PM (#39077443)
          The New York Times wrote [that] the joint report then noted "Automatic computerized traders on the stock market shut down as they detected the sharp rise in buying and selling." As computerized high frequency traders exited the stock market, the resulting lack of liquidity "...caused shares of some prominent companies like Procter & Gamble and Accenture to trade down as low as a penny or as high as $100,000." These extreme prices also resulted from "market internalizers," firms that usually trade with customer orders from their own inventory instead of sending those orders to exchanges, "routing 'most, if not all,' retail orders to the public markets -- a flood of unusual selling pressure that sucked up more dwindling liquidity."

          2010 Flash Crash [wikipedia.org]
          • OK – what point are you trying to make? O.k. So where do you want to go from here?

            One choice is to go backwards and have a few oligopolies dominate the role of market makes or we could go with the free market idea that anybody with a million dollars and a computer can become a market maker.

            Double Plus: On average, the costs are lower. Both explicit and implicit. Do HF trades make gobs of money by being “vultures?” Yes – but a lot less than under the old system with a few chummy opaq

            • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Interesting)

              by barc0001 (173002) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:52PM (#39078219)

              Actually, it would be better to simply get rid of algo trading by adding a $0.001 "tax" to each share traded. That would affect "real" trades very little, but would completely obliterate the profitability of algorithmic extreme-transaction-volume trading. To be absolutely clear we are not talking about your ability to trade stocks yourself through something like E-Trade, we're talking about brokerage houses doing hundreds of thousands of transactions per day trying to carve additional profit for themselves. Have a look at this TED Talk on the matter that was posted to /. a while back for some further perspective.
              http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_slavin_how_algorithms_shape_our_world.html
              The relevant bit starts at around 2:45.

              • Interesting talk, but I think you are kind of missing my point – it’s about the implicit cost – the bid/ask spread.

                There are explicit costs. When you buy a stock at your broker (say E-Trade) there will be a commission for that trade (say $10).

                Then there are implicit costs. When you trade a stock there is a bid / ask spread. For stock X say $100 / $100.25. In this case the market maker basically picks up $.25 per share basically risk free.

                You won’t see that cost on your trade ticket

          • by ak3ldama (554026)

            It seems so basic, that any sell or buy order would have associated with it a price limit, why would anyone blindly say to "sell these X shares at any damn price you can!" is beyond belief. What is the point of liquidity when it comes at the cost of stupidity? If you base your view of behaviors off that of individuals this would be immediately, or rather abruptly, be brought to attention. Why would a farmer decide to sell his 10 bushels of oats for only 1/10th (or less!) of what he previously determined it

      • by s-whs (959229) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:43PM (#39077331)

        Unless you count a 90% reduction in trading costs as âoenothingâ.

        Back in the day Market Makers would take $.125 to $.25 for every share traded. And woe to you if you were trying to sell more than 10k because then you would really be scalped. And then you had to add broker commissions on top of that.

        I would rather pay high frequency traders $.01 a share and have a deep liquid market then go back to the good old days

        (- infinite, moronic)

        Who gives a damn what percentage some trader wanted? For one it's all mostly automated so fees should be very low now, and for another, if you don't need to/want to buy/sell frequently then the small charges are a non issue. They are only an issue if you want to trade a lot because you want to gamble on changes in values of stock. So the original poster was right, high freqeuncy trading is valueless and should be disallowed. It's gambling, and not just simple gambling, but gambling that destabilizes economies.

        • I see it as a textbook man in the middle attack.
          Alice wants to buy shares. Bob is selling them. Mallory is listening and hears that Alice is buying shares from Bob, so buy all but the first few from Bob and sells them at a markup to Alice.
          In other contexts it's considered criminal behaviour.
      • by Bengie (1121981)

        Wish I had points for alexander_686. Even if not correct(not saying it isn't), it is a very good argument. I have never heard it from that view point before.

      • Re:90% reduction (Score:5, Insightful)

        by boorack (1345877) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:31PM (#39077931)

        You assume that they provide liquidity which is not true with HFT and that $.01 a share cheap which is also not the case for HFT traders.

        Regarding liquidity, HFT provides an illusion of liquidity. When a bunch of computers banging, say, 500 shares between themselves over and over again 500 times a day will generate 250000 volume but this does not mean that market is so deep. You see, there are only 500 shares in use. When some big, traditional (institutional?) investor fooled by this artificially high volume decides to sell 100000 shares, it will impact market much higher than if that 250000 (or even half of that) was a real volume. To make thing worse, computers trading these shares will propably detect and try to take of this incurring even more losses to investor (potential gains for HFT trader) and potentially cause some form of flash crash. In the end, traditional investors typically get much worse off with HFT than without HFT, even seeing [lack of] real volume.

        Regarding $0.01 - remember that this is $0.01 times billions. It results with hundreds of millions of dollars getting sucked off market by HFT operators instead of being directed into actual, productive investments (thing that stock markets are supposed to be created for). That this money is sucked off penny by penny does not matter. It's still real investments deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars every day by Goldman Sachs and its cronies.

        In my opinion HFT is a fraud, nothing more. The fact that it's (still) legal is just a sign how corrupt whole system is.

        • by gd2shoe (747932)

          Regarding $0.01 - remember that this is $0.01 times billions. It results with hundreds of millions of dollars getting sucked off market by HFT operators instead of being directed into actual, productive investments (thing that stock markets are supposed to be created for). That this money is sucked off penny by penny does not matter. It's still real investments deprived of hundreds of millions of dollars every day by Goldman Sachs and its cronies.

          You're right, or at least partly right. Let me play devils advocate, for a moment. Where do you think Goldman Sachs et al stash their "earnings"? In cash? No. They store it in securities and bonds. That money doesn't leave the market (right away), it just changes ownership (from small traders like pension funds to investment banks).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "liquidity" has no place in an investment system, it's only good for speculative investing, which is just gambling

      I don't understand it, therefore it's bad.

      Liquidity is really important. It's the ability to resell an asset. Buy and hold forever is great for Warren Buffet, but it is not so great for investors who want to sell stock in the future to finance their retirement or their kid's education.

      • by maroberts (15852) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:35PM (#39077211) Homepage Journal

        If you want to finance your retirement or your childs education, you don't need to sell shares every 5 seconds, so liquidity means little in this regard. It would not be the end of the world having to wait a week or two for money for such purposes.

        • by KiloByte (825081)

          And even more important, you would get the full money, instead of a significant part being lost to crooks running HFT. Every penny earned by them is a penny lost by actual investors.

        • But it does matter even for low cost long term investing..

          Let say you are investing for the long haul in low fee index funds (Mutual for ETF). Take a look at their cost structure for the past 20 years. The annual expense ratio has dropped from 1% to less than .1%. If you tear apart the public disclosures you will see that about 20% of that drop comes from explicate trading costs.

          My gut instinct says that another 30% can be attributed to implicit costs.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        I should have said "high liquidity" then. Obviously we shouldn't eliminate the ability to trade and sell stocks. But the argument always given for what high-frequency trading actually provides the market is "high liquidity". That isn't desirable at all in actual investing. High liquidity just means instability. Algorithmic trading in general just leads to instability.

        Real growth of wealth comes from capital actually being used for real things. The stock market can help wealth grow by providing capital to a

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      Your comments about liquidity make me think you don't fully understand how banking works. Actually, it makes me think you have close to zero idea about how banking works. No liquidity = everything stops happening. Everything. Businesses shut down.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        My statement was a reference to the claimed product of high frequency trading: high liquidity. I should have said "high liquidity" rather than just "liquidity" to be more clear. I don't actually think that people shouldn't be able to buy and then later sell their investments. Rapid buying and selling of investments is, however, a clear sign of people gaming the system rather than making investments. Where you actually draw the line is a bit tricky, but if you need to buy and then sell a stock in less than s

        • You are just wrong and your comment has been moderated up by people who have no knowledge of reality. High liquidity and maintaining equal prices across markets through arbitrage are valuable positive features of any trading environment that are enhanced by HFT. They assure you that you will be able to quickly get a fair price for your assets when you want or need to sell. Without these features your investments are far more risky and thus are worth less.

          You really need to read up on basic principles of inv

          • by tragedy (27079)

            I think you're looking at this from a fundamentally different perspective than me. Your concern is entirely for the individual investor, probably since you are one. That's fine in a casino environment. The stock market, however, is not meant to be a casino. The justification for its existence and for treating it like something other than a gambling parlour is that it's a system for providing capital for companies. As such, the selfish needs and desires of individual investors aren't the only concern for the

            • The stock market, however, is not meant to be a casino.

              Really? If you're thinking of the same stock market as I am, it's hard to believe that it's not intended to be a casino.

              The justification for its existence and for treating it like something other than a gambling parlour is that it's a system for providing capital for companies.

              Capital comes to companies through IPOs and corporate bond issuances. The stock market that you hear about on a daily basis is almost entirely the secondary market [investopedia.com], which i

    • by Tuan121 (1715852) on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:01PM (#39078315)

      It really doesn't surprise me what gets modded "insightful" here these days.

      Liquidity has no place in an investment system you say? So you mean, if you have some shares of Apple and you want to sell them, you should have to try to shop around to sell them and pay a large transaction cost just to get rid of something that has a market value? And how is that market value determined if there are not people actively trading the product? You can say a widget is worth $100 million, but until someone actually buys it for that price it's just imaginary.

      And speculative investing is not good you say because it's gambling. Hmm, so what is buying shares of a new start-up company then, this would be investing, but not gambling?? I don't think you understand that both are in many ways the same thing. Investing IS gambling in every single way.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        The "liquidity" that I was referring to that has no place in an investment system is the supposed "liquidity" that HFT claims as its "product". Clearly some liquidity must exist, but that which HFT provides is largely illusory and completely unnecessary in any case. In reality, they're actually probably reducing real liquidity.

        As for investment being gambling. Proper investment is indeed a gamble based on educated guesses about a company and the market it operates in (not the stock market its stocks are sol

        • by gd2shoe (747932)

          In reality, they're actually probably reducing real liquidity.

          Um, how so? I can understand fake-liquidity by HFT. I don't see how it would decrease real liquidity. By decreasing the spread, it would make a given security slightly more appealing, and thus slightly increase real liquidity.

          (This probably means that you've seen something I don't know, which has sparked my curiosity.)

          • by tragedy (27079)

            I'm not really being very precise when I say that. Basically the thinking is that high frequency trading is about inserting the high frequency traders as middlemen into every transaction and taking a cut. Thanks to that cut, sellers don't sell for quite as much as they would have and buyers pay more than they would have. This is where I run into a problem with definitions. Liquidity is basically defined as an asset being readily saleable without affecting its price. Technically, since the price goes up for

            • by gd2shoe (747932)
              Not that I'm aware of. But what you described was an increase in spread, which would cause a decrease in actual liquidity. That seems at odds with what the general consensus seems to be. I'm aware that the spread must be increased minimally by an actual transaction, but everyone seems to think that competition in HFT is bringing spreads down. (Again, there seems to be something missing from this equation.)
    • by Shompol (1690084)
      True, the millisecond-splitting has gone to the realm of insane. Electronic trading companies invest untold $$$ into trading infrastructure just to be able to shave off a few milliseconds and get unfair advantage on the market. On the other hand, you have real-time games like Starcraft, where all transactions are synchronized to a timer and if one of the players has a slower connection he is still guaranteed to be on the same playing field.

      Just lock all transaction to 1-minute intervals, that gives plent
      • by Skapare (16644)

        Damn. I wish I had mods points today. I blew them all yesterday. Even if I did, I would only be able to do +1. Shucks.

      • Just lock all transaction to 1-minute intervals

        NASDAQ used to offer several intraday auctions, which AFAIK amount to the same thing (but on a different timescale... maybe every 2 hours?) I don't know why they got rid of them, but it's worth investigating if you are interested in essentially reviving the practice.

  • In essence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:13PM (#39076905)
    He took a copy of the code of an internal tool, not something that they sell to customers. Would you really consider it evil to save a copy of your log viewer, for example? The law was intended to protect sold products.
    • Re:In essence (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alen (225700) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:24PM (#39077055)

      he didn't take a log, he took the algorith and source code that took years to develop and which was meant to be used only internally

      this is like a Moto engineer taking a new antenna or radio noise reduction algorithm and going to apple with it hoping to get paid $$$$$

      • by Skapare (16644)

        Hypothetically he could use this code with a competing trader. If the law doesn't make this illegal, then it has a loophole (but I grin at the court that does the strict interpretation under the principle of :if they really wanted to make that illegal, they would have put it in the wording of the law").

    • Re:In essence (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maroberts (15852) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:28PM (#39077121) Homepage Journal

      If you produce a product as part of work for hire and then steal that code and sell it on to a third party, it's still a form of theft.

      It was however, perfectly legitimate for him to walk out with the knowledge of how stuff worked in his head and sell his expertise; I'm surprised he didn't do so. Once you know how something is done, you have solved the hard part and can spout a new set of code out of your head with little difficulty. Often producing a product the second time means you can do things better and faster anyway.

      There's a lot of blurring between personal and work computers nowadays, which does mean you may have a copy of stuff you have developed on your home PC, and that can make things awkward. But if you do mean to sell something you've worked on to another party, you'd damn well better make sure that right is in your contract.

      • by jpapon (1877296)
        I agree there is nothing illegal about walking out and reproducing algorithms you have learned. If you really understand and can reproduce the entirety of some Wall Street company's HFT codebase from memory, you deserve to be rich.

        Problem is, that's alot of code, and the people smart enough to reproduce it probably don't care enough to do this.

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday February 17, 2012 @03:27PM (#39077873)

          I agree there is nothing illegal about walking out and reproducing algorithms you have learned.

          Nope. If those algorithms represent the trade secrets of your former employer then it is illegal to disclose them. For example **undisclosed** details on when to bid and how much to bid given market conditions.

          General knowledge is transportable. How to optimize C and assembly code, how to optimize network communications, **publicly available** details on when to bid and how much to bid given market conditions.

          • by jpapon (1877296)
            That's the point. It's just as idiotic as software patents. Even more so, because it's not actually even patented.

            I call into question any contract which states that you can't use your own personal knowledge once you leave a company. That's just like those silly non-compete clauses which won't hold in court if you change geographical regions. A non-compete clause can't prevent you from working everywhere on the planet, just like a Wall Street company can't prevent you from developing an algorithm for anot

            • You are mistaken. At the heart of your misunderstanding is the fact that trade secrets are a legally defined and protected form of intellectual property. The protection of trade secrets goes back centuries. Trade secrets have to meet a certain legal criteria and the company has to take steps to prevent disclosure to the public, employees (current and former) are legally obliged to respect the owner's rights. There is no expiration, as long as the company maintains the secret it is protected.
              http://en.wikip [wikipedia.org]
        • by tqk (413719)

          If you really understand and can reproduce the entirety of some Wall Street company's HFT codebase from memory, you deserve to be rich.

          Problem is, that's alot of code, and the people smart enough to reproduce it probably don't care enough to do this.

          Considering what we've seen lately of Wall St.'s abilities, I'm not willing to rate them that highly.

          if ( ( $price < $expected_price ) && yada() ) {
          buy();
          } elsif ( ( $price > $expected_price ) && yada() ) {
          sell();
          }

          How much more difficult can it be? People who spend all their time focusing on mere money can be pretty foolish (and generally are, from what I've seen). I wouldn't be surprised to learn that a few slick talking pr

          • by Skapare (16644)

            You are obviously not a trading programmer. You don't get either of those numbers as straight out values. High frequency trading involves understanding a LOT of statistical data taking place in real time, requiring nearly instant response, while the programmers at competitors are trying to out-instant you. This is not even about "buy everything that has a better price". It's about strategic buying ... even knowing that what you buy now may be sold (to those competitors) in just a few seconds. This is t

      • It was however, perfectly legitimate for him to walk out with the knowledge of how stuff worked in his head and sell his expertise

        Only the general knowledge in his head. Knowledge that represented trade secrets of his past employer are still protected and may not be shared.

      • It was however, perfectly legitimate for him to walk out with the knowledge of how stuff worked in his head and sell his expertise

        You sure about that? Ever heard of a Non-Disclosure Agreement or a Non-Compete Clause? As a software developer I have had to sign at least one of these at every single job I have ever had.

    • by tqk (413719)

      The law was intended to protect sold products.

      From what I've read of this so far, I've no idea wtf that law was intended for, and he appears to have gotten off on a technicality, or the jury just didn't have a clue as to what was going on:

      During his last final days at Goldman, Mr. Aleynikov uploaded source code to a server in Germany that allowed him to do an end run around the company's security systems. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

      At trial, Mr. Marino, the lawyer for Mr. Aleynikov, acknowledge that his client breached Goldman's confidentiality agreements, but insisted that he did not commit a crime.

      Federal prosecutors portrayed Mr. Aleynikov as a thief who stole Goldman's closely guarded code to help his new employer. After a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for just three hours before reaching a unanimous guilty verdict.

      Weird. Why GS didn't sign him to a non-compete agreement I can't imagine. Six figure salary, walks away to competitor, and all you have to fall back on is some weird, obscure banking law?!? WTF? GS is that lax? Really?!?

      HR fail.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:22PM (#39077027)

    his lawyers convinced an appeals court that coding for a system meant to buy and sell stock across state and international borders wasn't "interstate commerce"

    I suspect congress is going to amend this law soon

    • by julesh (229690)

      a system meant to buy and sell stock across state and international borders wasn't "interstate commerce"

      It isn't. I don't imagine any of that stock ever left the state of New York.

    • by Joe U (443617)

      his lawyers convinced an appeals court that coding for a system meant to buy and sell stock across state and international borders wasn't "interstate commerce"

      The system itself wasn't being sold, which is what the law protects. Remember, there's usually a somewhat poor real-world analogy (car related, if you're lucky) you can use when dealing with cases like this.

  • by GlobalEcho (26240) on Friday February 17, 2012 @02:32PM (#39077177)
    If you read TFA looks you find that, in their eagerness to get the maximum news and sentence, the prosecution chose the wrong statute to charge him under. If they had just treated this like any other case of illegally copying an employer's code and not tried to get cute with the "interstate commerce" bit, they would have had a rock-solid conviction.
  • If they convicted everyone there who was a thief, who would be left?

    • by ozzee (612196)

      If they convicted everyone there who was a thief, who would be left?

      It's only illegal if you get caught.

  • that Goldman sachs.
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday February 17, 2012 @04:55PM (#39079091)

    The Second Circuit is TELLING, not asking, the lower court to enter a judgment of acquittal. The feds only hope is a successful supreme court apppeal.

    • by urulokion (597607)
      No. The feds can ask for a en banc (full court) review of the case. If that doesn't go their way they can request for cert at the Supreme Court. Or they could go straight to the Supreme Court. With the Appeals Court ruling mere hours after the hearing, I think the odds of a successful reversal are slim to none.

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