The Great Debate

Was Goldman’s trading software stolen?

Matthew Goldstein–Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own.–

Did someone try to steal Goldman Sachs’ secret sauce?

While most in the United States were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, a Russian immigrant living in New Jersey was being held on federal charges of stealing secret computer trading codes from a major New York-based financial institution.

Authorities did not identify the firm, but sources say the institution is none other than Goldman Sachs .

The charges, if proven, are significant because the codes that the accused, Sergey Aleynikov, tried to steal are the secret sauce to Goldman’s automated stock and commodities trading business.

Federal authorities contend the computer codes and related-trading files that Aleynikov uploaded to a German-based website help this major financial institution generate millions of dollars in profits each year.

from Commentaries:

Fink reaches for Wall Street’s crown

Matthew GoldsteinYou have to marvel at the seemingly Midas touch of Larry Fink.

The BlackRock Inc. chief executive avoided taking over the helm of Merrill Lynch -- something John Thain probably wishes he had done. Fink's firm emerged from the financial crisis as the Federal Reserve's favorite private money manager, with BlackRock getting the lion's share of the government's work for managing troubled assets. And the $13 billion deal Fink just reached with Barclays Global Investors has turned BlackRock into the outright titan of the asset management world with $2.7 trillion in other peoples' money under management.

It's often been said Jamie Dimon is the new king of Wall Street. But one can argue that the 56-year-old Fink, who started BlackRock as a small bond investment shop two decades ago, can also rightfully lay claim to that honor. Even as the Obama administration is about to announce its plan for managing so-called "too big to fail" financial institutions, Fink's BlackRock is getting bigger and more consequential than ever.

The deal puts BlackRock's fingers firmly into every significant asset class-corporate bonds, mortgage-backed securities, mutual funds, stocks, cash, hedge funds and now the ever popular exchange traded funds -- a stock index-like security. Barclays now joins Bank of America and PNC Financial in having major equity stakes in BlackRock and a vested interest in the money manager's long-term health.

How to fix the SEC

Matthew Goldstein

– Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Many critics of the Securities and Exchange Commission point to Christopher Cox’s appointment as chairman in August 2005 as the day the wheels came off Wall Street’s top cop.

But in some ways, the SEC began to veer off course a few months earlier, when the agency moved its Washington headquarters into a sparkling new office building that would make even a corporate law firm jealous.

When hedge funds lose their mojo, humble pie is in order

pie– Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

We’re not quite there yet, but hedge fund managers may soon need to start giving away toasters – or perhaps plasma TVs — to woo new investors. Forcing the funds to eat a little humble pie now would benefit hedge fund investors in the long run.

Most hedge funds are off to a decent start this year — the average return to date is 9.43 percent, says Hedge Fund Research. Yet it’s a particularly tough time for launching a new fund. In the first five months of 2009, just 40 new funds have begun reporting performance figures, BarclayHedge reports.

A pledge drive for toxic assets

matthew-goldstein– Matthew Goldstein is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Three months after the Obama administration proposed the Public-Private Investment Program, banks remain lukewarm to the notion of selling ailing securities at a deep discount. Potential hedge fund buyers, meanwhile, are wary about government officials looking over their shoulders.

But it’s not too late for team Obama to change course and put in place a program that might actually entice the banks and hedge funds to participate, while also serving a civic good.