back to article Ex-Goldman Sachs programmer found guilty of code theft … again

An ex-Goldman Sachs programmer has for the second time been found guilty of stealing code from the vampiric financial giant. A New York jury found Sergey Aleynikov guilty on one count of data theft. He faces as much as four years behind bars. Aleynikov was arrested in 2009 after leaving Goldman for another company with a copy …

  1. silent_count

    I do understand that he was charged under different laws the second time but it still reeks of the prosecution trying to circumvent the principle of double jeopardy - that you can't be charged for the same thing twice.

    1. Chris 244
      Headmaster

      Dual sovereignty

      US v. Lanza 260 U.S. 377 (1922):

      "[A]n act denounced as a crime by both national and state sovereignties is an offense against the peace and dignity of both, and may be punished by each."

      Not saying it's fair...

      1. Hud Dunlap
        Boffin

        Re: Dual sovereignty @Chris 244

        Thanks for the case information. Prohibition certainly screwed things up.

        http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=260&invol=377

    2. Bitbeisser

      Double jeopardy doesn't apply here, as he wasn't acquitted the first time, he appealed the judgement. That means the "case is not closed", just re-tried...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *Whose* code?

    If I were a juror is such a case, I'd want to see (a) a signed "work done for hire" agreement, and (b) any copyright statements in the code. Without the first, the implication is that it's his code, so it wasn't stolen. If there are copyright statements for anyone other than the company, one could legitimately argue that it isn't their code, which would also cast doubt on it being theft.

    1. David Dawson

      Re: *Whose* code?

      It's a fair point, however all employment and service contracts for banks have very wide ranging copyright assignment clauses. These are to the point that if you work on something, say some open source, out of working hours then the employer owns it, not the employee.

      Algorithms of this type are highly sought after, and are a valuable thing.

      He deserved to be punished for this, it was theft.

      1. ST Silver badge

        Re: *Whose* code?

        > These are to the point that if you work on something, say some open source, out of working hours then the employer owns it, not the employee.

        It's not quite that draconian. I've been in this type of situation myself twice before - I was working on open source projects in my free time. The only thing I had to do was to get an approval from my employer - and yes, it was a Wall Street firm. They actually had an established process for these types of hobby activities for their software engineers.

        I had no difficulties at all getting the approval, and they were actually very supportive of it.

        1. Mark 65

          Re: *Whose* code?

          It's also only enforceable in the US. In the EU any work you did in your own time not using employer resources certainly could not fall under their ownership. Not that they wouldn't still write it in your contract but it wouldn't pass muster in a court.

      2. Doctor Evil

        Re: *Whose* code?

        Um, my understanding is that the code he uploaded to Github was code that he'd originally obtained from there under GNU GPL licensing ... or, in other words, open source.

        One of the conditions of the GPL, as you doubtless well know, is that you are enjoined to publish your own modifications to that code freely for the benefit of others. Which the bank, of course, blithely ignored in claiming "ownership" of the code.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: *Whose* code?

          One of the conditions of the GPL, as you doubtless well know, is that you are enjoined to publish your own modifications to that code freely for the benefit of others.

          Fallacy. You are only required to share your modifications if you distribute the modified version. If the "you" is a commercial entity, and you only use the modified software in-house, then there is no requirement to share your modifications with anyone.

        2. Doctor Evil

          Re: *Whose* code?

          Whoops, sorry - Subversion, not Github.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: *Whose* code?

        @David Dawson

        "Algorithms of this type are highly sought after, and are a valuable thing.

        He deserved to be punished for this, it was theft."

        You seem to have decided that he is guilty based on no more than a quick supposition. Assuming you don't work for Goldman Sachs you might be accused of being as ignorant (through no fault of their own) and as apathetic as the original jury (who's verdict was overturned).

        If you have studied the case and code in detail and believe that this consisted of highly valuable algorithms, then sure you are entitled to state that, however I suspect you haven't.

      4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: *Whose* code? @ David Dawson

        I don't know what the definition of "theft" is where you are, but it certainly wouldn't pass muster here in the UK. S1 Theft Act 1968 - "dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive". From what I've read here, there are big question-marks over dishonesty, appropriation, belonging to another, and permanent deprivation. Goldman Sachs didn't actually lose the code, or the use of it, so - again here in the UK, we seem to be in the ground laid out in R v Lloyd, Bhuee & Ali [1985] QB 829, where the Court of Appeal held that only a situation in which "all the goodness, virtue and practical value [was] taken from the goods" amounted to permanent deprivation. Of course, the law might be different where you are, but it certainly sounds strange here in the UK to see the word "theft" used in this context.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: *Whose* code? @ David Dawson

          >>"I don't know what the definition of "theft" is where you are, but it certainly wouldn't pass muster here in the UK"

          Most people's definition of theft is taking something that doesn't belong to them without permission.

          --someone in the UK.

          1. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: *Whose* code? @ David Dawson

            Most people's definition of theft is...

            irrelevant - the only definition worth considering is that in law, and that says:

            A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.

            1. h4rm0ny
              Headmaster

              Re: *Whose* code? @ David Dawson

              >>"irrelevant - the only definition worth considering is that in law,"

              Well no, it isn't. Legal terminology is a specialized sub-set of language. We are not confined to only use definitions given by a particular country's legal system. The OP didn't say that they had been charged with "theft" in court, they called the action of taking something you didn't have a right to, to be theft. Which is in accord with the way pretty much everyone uses it.

              I mean you can declare it "irrelevant" how most people use a word and insist that only legal definitions of a particular country is allowed, but you have no such authority to set those definitions above everyone else. When someone says the charge in court was "Theft" you can leap in and say it was technically "contract violation" or whatever, but that's not what anyone did.

  3. Snow Wombat
    FAIL

    If you read the book "flashboys"...

    This is a complete bullshit charge, and will be thrown on appeal again.

    The code he took was a few lines of stuff that was nothing to do with actual trading algorithms and really about Goldman Sachs trying to put the fear of god into the coders out there.

  4. h4rm0ny

    Stealing from Goldman-Sachs?

    That's like Bilbo Baggins stealing the gold cup from Smaug.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Stealing from Goldman-Sachs?

      Excellent analogy. GS is one of the most EVIL corporations ever created and mostly responsible for the last Great Recession.

      Some one stole your code, GS? Cry me a fucking river and fuck off.

  5. thomas k.

    Might want to add 'Jr.' to the DA's name

    So as not to be confused with his father, the former Secretary of State under Carter.

    (Tried to use corrections but don't have an email account on work computer, sorry.)

  6. tentimes

    About the book, Flash Boys

    Well worth a read. I got it on audiobook from audible and it was a really good listen.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Emperor/Squid has No Clothes

    The following from Wired’s report on the case and verdict ……….

    But Aleynikov underestimated the wrath and determination of Goldman Sachs and prosecutors. Shortly after his federal conviction was overturned, the district attorney’s office in Manhattan found state laws under which they could charge him for the “unlawful use of secret scientific material” and the “unlawful duplication of computer related material”.

    Today Aleynikov was found guilty under the first charge but acquitted of the second.

    “As today’s verdict demonstrates, the misappropriation of proprietary information is a crime,” New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

    ……. elicited this valid comment and surely not altogether alien view ……

    amanfromMars Sat 2 May 09:03 [1505020903] staying the bleeding edge obvious on http://www.wired.com/2015/05/programmer-convicted-bizarre-goldman-sachs-caseagain/

    “unlawful use of secret scientific material”

    Secret scientific material? Oh please, there is nothing secret or scientific about rigging and front running ponzi markets and laundering services for fiat currencies exchanging and accepting dollar$, is there?

    Goldman Sachs, J'accuse?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: The Emperor/Squid has No Clothes

      And here be a not ancient view worth noting and never forgetting to always remember .........

      “If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out." .... Oscar Wilde. :-)

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The Emperor/Squid has No Clothes

      The integration of human-approximating language patterns into amanfromMars1's communication modules has come on by leaps and bounds, I see.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The Emperor/Squid has No Clothes

      Oh please, there is nothing secret or scientific about rigging and front running ponzi markets and laundering services for fiat currencies exchanging and accepting dollar$, is there?

      Well, yes, there may very well be. Whether algorithms are "invented" or "discovered" is an epistemological and ontological question I'm not going to get into (for one thing, in this context it's unlikely to be enlightening), but in either case they can certainly be secret.

      And they are also "scientific", if that adjective is understood as a term of art referring to processes evaluated under a scientific epistemological method, which is how the law in question appears to mean it. That is, they are deterministic formal processes that are developed and evaluated under criteria that attempt to ensure they produce objective, observer-independent results when applied to a formal problem.

      Now, whether such algorithms are, say, ethical, in themselves or in application, is another area of inquiry entirely. But the law has a long and rich history of endorsing the unethical, and it is quixotic to criticize it for doing so once again. We might complain that we do not wish the law to be what it is; but that does not constitute a valid argument that it has been misapplied here. (I'm not saying it hasn't, mind you, just that this particular argument is not properly warranted.)

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Fogcat

    There's a good detailed report here:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2013/09/michael-lewis-goldman-sachs-programmer

    1. I Am Spartacus

      Than you

      @fogcat

      Yes, a good, detailed, explanation. Worth the read.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, though I admit "(602 – 12)" in the article threw me for a bit until I realized it was supposed to be "(602 – 12)" - which is odd, since I'd already made the same simplification in my head, but didn't connect it with the notation in the article.

      I hate it when the copy editors screw up the mathematics.

      Personally, I have to withhold judgement; without seeing what Aleynikov actually uploaded to that Subversion server, I have no way to judge whether he might have stolen proprietary code, or what the probability might be that it represented a significant loss to GS. My inclination is to believe Aleynikov's defenders, because he has my sympathy - the trials, convictions, and sentences look hugely excessive even if GS's claims are entirely true and Aleynikov acted out of malice or greed. And I can well believe that GS would act in a grossly disproportionate fashion to an innocent act, since everything I've read about the organization (including its public statements) suggests a culture of narcissism and paranoia. But since I wasn't a juror in either trial, my feelings have no bearing on the facts.

      And unfortunately we see once again that juries do a lousy job with technical cases. But it has ever been thus.

  10. ShadowedOne

    The suspense is killing me!

    So...who got the sandwich and was it, in fact, good?

    1. ~mico

      Re: The suspense is killing me!

      It was an avocado adequate for an advocate!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goldman Sachs - the criminals involved in pump and dump scams?

    Just checking

  12. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Scratch the surface

    of a democracy and just below the surface you'll find that rules and laws are really not there to protect you and me or the other guy in the street. The laws are there to protect itself from you or me or the guy in the street. Check out double jeopardy in Australia , UK or US and it has so many loopholes or exceptions they could continue to proecute him til he dies of old age.

  13. R.Wolfe
    WTF?

    So then lets make him V.P. of the "not so federal" Federal reserve then ..Isn't that S.O.P. these days?

  14. JimC

    So

    Man with dubious ethical compass and expensive lawyers seeking to get off on a technicality comes up against company with dubious ethical compass and expensive lawyers wanting to nail him?

    No lawyers were impoverished in the course of this story...

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