The legal jujitsu of Goldman Sachs
By Felix Salmon - Reuters
. . . .
The big difference between the two cases is that while Tourre was defended by Goldman Sachs, Aleynikov was prosecuted by them: Lewis leaves the reader in no doubt that the decision to prosecute, along with all the supporting arguments, while nominally taken by the FBI, was essentially made by Goldman Sachs itself. The irony is painful: the government, acting against Goldman Sachs, could only manage a civil prosecution. But Goldman Sachs, acting through the government, managed to secure itself a highly-dubious criminal prosecution, complete with an eight-year prison sentence.
Lewis doesn’t delve too deeply into the jurisprudence here. But it’s obvious that the case would never have been brought without Goldman’s aggressive attempt to cause as much personal destruction as possible to Aleynikov — and it’s also obvious that Aleynikov neither meant nor caused any harm to Goldman whatsoever.
Goldman has consistently attempted to paint Aleynikov as a stealer of valuable secrets — but if anything in Goldman’s high-frequency trading code was valuable, it was Goldman’s trading strategies, and Aleynikov had zero interest in those. What’s more, he wasn’t interested in the code itself, a big buggy mess which he was happy to leave behind: his new job was to build an entirely new system from scratch, in a completely different computer language to that used at Goldman. All that Aleynikov did, in substance, was to email to himself a bunch of files which included open-source code he had managed to find, over the years, online. He thought it might come in handy, one day, but it never really did: most of the files, when they were seized, were unopened.
The story of Aleynikov’s prosecution is a depressing one — one of the experts Lewis assembled to judge the coder’s claims was literally nauseated by the bank’s actions. The story is pretty simple: there are smart HFT shops, and then there’s Goldman Sachs.
Read the entire article here