Goldman Software Theft Trial Nears Conclusion

Dec 9 2010 | 1:55am ET

Closing arguments are to begin today in the trial of the former Goldman Sachs programmer accused of stealing the bank's high-frequency trading software.

Prosecutors closed their case today with witnesses who talked about a lawsuit filed more than a decade ago by the producers of the television game show "Wheel of Fortune," in which Sergei Aleynikov was accused of creating an unauthorized online version of the game.

Aleynikov "essentially bragged about his theft of intellectual property," prosecutors said.

Even if that were the case in 1997, Aleynikov's lawyer argued, it doesn't mean his client is guilty of a crime in the Goldman case. Kevin Marino admitted that Aleynikov took the code from Goldman in violation of the firm's rules, but has argued that Goldman's rules are not federal law, and the code he took was not even proprietary.

"The material he downloaded or obtained from Goldman Sachs' computers contained lots of open source software," Benjamin Goldberg, a New York University computer science professor and expert witness for the defense, testified. Most of it is available on public Web sites, Goldberg said.

Aleynikov left Goldman to work for Teza Technologies, a controversial high-frequency trading firm founded by former Citadel Investment Group executives. Teza has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has said that the Goldman software was never uploaded onto its computers.

Earlier in the week, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent said that Aleynikov was "completely cooperative" and a "perfect gentlemen" after his arrest last summer and the search of his New Jersey apartment. Michael McSwain said Aleynikov spoke to him for more than three hours after the arrest.

"I wasn't surprised that he talked to me, but I was surprised that we kept finding the code in more and more places," McSwain testified. The agent said the code was found on a laptop, flash drive and the computer of Aleynikov's wife.

If convicted of theft of trade secrets and transportation of stolen property, Aleynikov could face up to 15 years in prison.

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