Samarth Agrawal was arrested today for stealing high frequency trading (HFT) algorithms from Soc Gen, according to Courthouse News. In an amazing case that could be bigger than Goldman’s alleged algo-thief Sergey Aleynikov, it looks as though Agrawal tried to steal complex algos from Soc Gen and give them to a competing financial institution.
HFT trading operations are very secretive about their algos. Everyone at a Mankoff Company HFT conference we were at recently jumped when someone mentioned the purpose of one particular algo he had learned of. None of the traders we later asked would give us any other examples of the algos they use.
“It’s proprietary information,” we heard repeatedly.
So it’s a big deal that almost right after he was hired, Agrawal allegedly started stealing documents that recorded the complex algos.
He also might have planned to give the formulas to competing financial institutions. Though his LinkedIn profile says Agraway is still with the firm, the court says he resigned from Soc Gen in November 2009, a month after he allegedly printed out the codes. Then in March, he made or received about 115 calls from six large financial institutions. His contract with Soc Gen had prevented him from working with a competing organisation until March.
He was not stealth about stealing the information. Security reportedly cameras caught Agrawal printing out the documents and his computer activity was constantly monitored by Soc Gen, so they knew which documents he had access to.
Then in April, an undercover FBI agent posed as a recruiter and spoke to Agrawal, who told the recruiter “that he had been interviewing with ‘most of the big names’ among New York financial firms.”
Agrawal, 26, is charged with theft of trade secrets, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
We emailed Samarth and hope we will get to hear his side of the story.
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