Trial Of Alleged Goldman Software Thief Begins

Nov 30 2010 | 4:49pm ET

The trial of a former Goldman Sachs computer programmer accused of stealing the bank's high-frequency trading software before leaving to join a firm founded by former Citadel Investment Group traders opened today, with prosecutors telling the jury that Sergey Aleynikov "stole valuable secrets."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti said Aleynikov stole parts of the HFT code and tried to hide his tracks on his last day of work at the firm, June 5, 2009.

"This is a case about greed and theft," Facciponti said, noting that Teza Technologies, the firm that hired Aleynikov, offered the Russian a bonus of three times his Goldman salary. The prosecutor said Aleynikov was "meticulous, deliberate and clever," but got caught anyway.

Aleynikov "thought that he'd found a foolproof way of getting around the security barriers," Facciponti said.

Aleynikov's lawyer, Kevin Marino, did not deny that his client had taken the software. But he said that Aleynikov merely planned to use the open-source—or publicly-available code—contained in the Goldman program.

That was a violation of Goldman Sachs rules, but, Marino said, "I will dispute to my death that violating a Goldman Sachs confidentiality provision is a federal crime."

Teza denies that it hired Aleynikov with the intention of getting the Goldman code. The firm, founded by former Citadel high-frequency trading head Mikhail Malyshev, has had its own trouble with the law, after Citadel sued Malyshev and co-founder Jace Kohlmeier of violating their non-compete agreements. Citadel claimed there was a risk of "industrial espionage" following Aleynikov's arrest.

Teza suspended Aleynikov after his arrest and later fired him.

Aleynikov faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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