Sergey strikes back

August 10, 2009

The case of Sergey Aleynikov, the former Goldman Sachs programmer charged with stealing some of the top secret code to the investment bank’s high-frequency trading program, is going on the offensive.

Aleynikov has filed a subpoena on his former employer, seeking access to some information–mainly his personnel file. And Goldman has responded by filing a motion in federal court to quash the subpoena. Goldman filed its motion on Aug. 6, a source familiar with the matter says.

A hearing on Goldman’s motion to put the kibosh on Aleynikov’s request for documents will be heard Monday afternoon beofre Judge Paul Crotty.

The hearing on Aleynikov’s motion comes as the attorney for the former Goldman employee and federal prosecutors continue to work towards trying to reach a potential plea deal in the case.

I’m trying to a copy of Goldman’s motion. At this point, we don’t know what information Aleynikov is seeking. But this could be a hot hearing.

UPDATE: Just got a copy of Goldman’s motion and it appears much of what Aleynikov wants are personnel records regarding ”performance reviews by peers and superiors, complaints, employee progress reports, training history records” etc.

Goldman says Aleynikov’s request should be denied because the “crux of the complaint is an allegation of theft, not an employment or wage dispute.”

Maybe the most interesting thing in Goldman’s filing is that it has chosen David Boies’ law firm to represent it. The attorney handling the matter is Matthew Friedrich, a former federal prosecutor and member of the Enron task force. Friedrich, who joined the law firm in late July, most recently was deputy chief of staff to former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

That’s a pretty hire powered legal team for what appears to be a rather routine motion. Then again, Goldman can certainly afford to hire the best.

Meanwhile, Aleynikov’s lawyer counters Goldman’s  argument by arguing that the personnel file is necessary to show prosecutors that Aleynikov is a good person and was a valued employee’.’

My take is that Aleynikov’s legal team is trying to get as much ammunition as they can to negotiate a favorable deal for their client. That makes sense for Aleynikov. But there doesn’t appear to be a high-frequency smoking gun in this document request.

UPDATE 2.0: Goldman smackdown, courtesy of Judge Crotty, who gave a pretty hard time to Goldman’s lawyer in court. Aleynikov got access to his personnel file, as requested, and Goldman got nothing. I guess Goldman doesn’t win all the time.


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Thanks for the interesting post. A criminal charge must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that to prove theft, the prosecutors would have to show that Aleynikov had so-called mens rea – the Latin term for “guilty mind”, according to Wikipedia. Can the prosecutors manage to show that Aleynikov deliberately and consciously acted, that it was not merely mis-placing files? From the bail hearing transcript, only a few megabytes out of a 1000+ megabytes platform ended up on a server in Germany. I’m wondering if this will be a trial with judge and jury, or if it will be with judge but no jury. David Bernier

Posted by David Bernier | Report as abusive


From Serge’s waiving of his Miranda rights to his mile-wide (and faintly ridiculous) footprint on the internet we’ve got the very image of an otherworldly and naive artist. I think you’ve successfully picked out the key task the defense team has to accomplish, as illustrated by what Matt’s dug up this time around. cialServicesAndRealEstateNews/idUSN10480 48720090810

“US judge denies Goldman motion on ex-programmer”

This is a very good sign.

Posted by John McLeod | Report as abusive

John McLeod,

You put it perfectly when you speak of “the very image of an otherworldly and naive artist.” The attempts to paint Aleynikov as some kind of super industrial spy even with links to FSB is completely inconsistent with the coding activity on the web that you mention, which all points to someone intensely geekish about their profession.

Sergey Aleynikov Fan Club is at: 3550517320#/group.php?gid=123550517320

And thanks to Matt Goldstein for his tenacity in stayin with the story!

Posted by ddgrant | Report as abusive

[...] track to being promptly settled out of court, just took an odd turn. Matt Goldstein over at Reuters reports that instead of keeping quiet, Sergey has taken the offensive and has filed a subpoena on Goldman [...]

Yes ok but why did Sergey Aleynikov download anything when about leaving a strategic position at Goldmann Sachs to go to a higher paying one ?
Strange , no? We are not taking about family photos , are we?

Posted by Ctan | Report as abusive

[...] Read the full article on Reuters blog [...]

[...] Read the full article on Reuters blog [...]

Ctan – downloading, accessing or otherwise using code or coding reference techniques at work is regular feature of any IT programming job. IT systems are built of various parts of which very little tends to be custom code – even in the case of cutting-edge stock trading systems. The underlying architecture will always have common principals with other types of system.

The truth is someone like Aleynikov could easily re-write his own code in a superior form anyway – something that Goldman will never be able to prevent, no matter how much they try.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive