The courtroom enjoyed Goldman Managing Director Paul Walker’s joke about the bank’s top secret trading algorithms, but the rest of his testimony raised some eyebrows.
In court yesterday, the prosecutors were trying to prove that Sergey Aleynikov is guilty of stealing proprietary high-frequency trading code from Goldman Sachs.
Aleynikov and his defence attorneys say he used only lines of Goldman’s code that were open source, meaning they belong to the public.
Prosecutor Rebecca Rohr asked Paul Walker which aspects of the code were meant to be kept secret from competitors.
“I would say all of them,” replied Walker, prompting laughter in the courtroom.
The lines of code were so confidential, he said, that the company guarded access by physical security in the building and enlisted additional services of a company called the Information Security Group. Goldman Sachs also monitored firewalls to look for outbound communication, Walker said.
So the code was pretty secret, according to Walker.
But then the defence attorney displayed the code Aleynikov allegedly stole so that the courtroom could see the highlighted sections.
Aren’t these sections found in textbooks? Asked Aleynikov’s attorney.
“It is possible that it may contain open source software,” Walker acknowledged.
Oh really? So it’s like Aleynikov stole a library book?
But then Aleynikov’s defence fell apart a little bit.
[His lawyer] suggested that his client only downloaded the Goldman code to separate the “wheat,” the “naked open source software” that he used in designing the program, from the “chaff,” the modified code belonging to the company.
… Because he wanted to “return to the public what belonged to the public.”
Impossible, said Walker.
What happened in court on Wednesday is what this case is all about: open-source vs. copyrighted information and who is more malicious: Goldman or Aleynikov.
Aleynikov hopes to convince the courtroom that he’s a big proponent of maintaining the integrity of open-source information; that some open source programs “operate on licenses mandating that programmers “re-contribute” any changes or modifications back to the public domain,” and that’s all he was trying to do, according to Courthouse News.
Walker “acknolwedged” that’s true, but said he didn’t have the legal background to offer any more insight.
So whether or not Aleynikov stole proprietary information is one issue. The second is who’s the evil one – Goldman Sachs or Aleynikov.
Aleynikov’s lawyer says Goldman’s case hinges on “hearsay statements from Goldman Sachs employees, who acted “with malice” against his client.”
Goldman Sachs went straight to the government, calling them up in the middle of the night and telling them to get on the case ASAP and put Aleynikov in jail, when they could have just resolved the matter in court.
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