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Did Goldman Overstep in Criminally Charging Its Ex-Programmer? (vanityfair.com)
257 points by yummyfajitas on Aug 2, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 220 comments

On the night of the arrest—without an arrest warrant—Serge waived his right to call a lawyer. He phoned his wife and told her what had happened and that a bunch of F.B.I. agents were on the way to their home to seize their computers, and to please let them in—though they had no search warrant, either. Then he sat down and politely tried to clear up the F.B.I. agent's confusion.

"He was completely not interested in the content of what I am saying. He just kept saying to me, 'If you tell me everything, I'll talk to the judge, and he'll go easy on you.' It appeared they had a very strong bias from the very beginning. They had goals they wanted to fulfill. The goal was to obtain an immediate confession."

Don't talk to police! - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

Unless you live in a multiple-party wiretap consent state, in which case you've committed additional crimes.

None of those articles promote surreptitious recording. You tell them you will only speak while being recorded (with a lawyer, natch), then they go away.

The best answer to the question "Can I ask you a few questions?" is "Sure! Just give me your card and I'll have my attorney set something up."

Gives them nowhere to go but home.

This is far too oversimplified to be the third comment I read in this thread, sorry.

That video is right up there with knowing about 83b elections as some of the most valuable information one can possibly possess.

I rewatch it annually and send out mass emails to all my friends and family when I do reminding them to do so as well.

Tell that to all the Zynga employees who made 83(b) elections and are now underwater! 83(b) entails being taxed on the value of stock/options when purchased/received (i.e., as compensation), rather than when vested or when exercised. It's great if the value of the stock increases, but you're substantially worse off economically (taking the time value of money into account) if the value of the stock decreases.

What valuation did those underwater employees get?

Unless the total price of the stock grant is financially negligible at the point of hire, the %5 tax difference isn't that great of an advantage compared to the risk since most startups fail.

I think vested stock options not expiring a few months after leaving the company is far more valuable, but no one does that. It would allow you to put no money down and only exercise when the options are actually liquid without being forced to purchase the stock at some point due to circumstances not under your control.

Can you add "jury nullification" to the mass emails also? That's what I tell my friends and family about.

If I ever get "fuck you" money, I am going to entertain myself by renting billboard space around courtrooms urging jurors to Google "jury nullification". I figure there would probably be some entertaining fallout of some sort.

Given how jury nullification was traditionally used, that fallout will probably also include accusations of virulent racism.

I'm not sure a lot of more libertarian types who advocate for jury-nullification are fully aware that the reason it was suppressed was that it was for decades a mechanism to basically let white guys kills black guys consequence-free.

This is one of the reasons "fuck you" money is necessary.

Jury nullification is a tool, it is not itself racist, though those who have other reasons to oppose it of course paint it as such. With "fuck you" money, much of that sort of slander loses its teeth.

I did not know that. I still stand by nullification as a possible solution to marijuana possession charges or the more egregious "excessive downloading" felonies. But it would be horrific to watch it used by twelve racists to free actual murderers :(

Depends on your definition of "entertainment," but you'll probably want to do your homework first, regardless:


I'm familiar with that man. That more or less is my definition of entertainment. I think somebody with money and who did it right (billboards on major roads surrounding but not necessarily in front of the court house, never approaching individuals in any way) could get into some interesting legal battles.

Do it right and it is plainly free speech; if I were to write/publish a book instead of design/rent billboards it would be very unambiguously legal. The entertainment comes in the form of seeing how they would try to stop me.

Are you sure about that? Do non-Americans have the same rights as Americans? Can they refuse to talk to the police, refuse to let the police into their home without a warrant, have an attorney present, ...?

Yes, all persons on US soil are to be protected by the constitution. (Not withstanding specific incidents of abuse, the fact that one is, or isn't a citizen is not intended to have any effect on the constitutional rights available.)

Is it really as simple as this in practice? Does anyone have any experience with this? As a foreigner, I have huge respect for the amount of trouble that the immigration authorities can cause for you if they figure they don't like your face.

The law is that simple. Actual practice may not be -- but talking to the cops sure didn't help the guy in this story, did it? It made things worse. A lot worse.

But yeah, if the government wants to fuck with you, they can surely fuck with you. Your best defense is getting a lawyer asap and not talking to the cops without a lawyer.

He would have been quite lucky to be deported. It's also sadly a much different game when you have access to funds--most people don't call a lawyer because it's expensive.

Miranda Rights. Even foreigners are entitled to a public defender. Prosecutors aren't allowed to even talk to you without giving you your Miranda Rights first (except in very very limited situations)

EDIT: It seems like Immigration is treated differently from other criminal cases. But it seems like if you're arrested by the typical FBI agent (ie: some sort of crime), you're gonna get Miranda Rights read to you, and the option for a free public lawyer.

In general, I'm more worried about not being arrested - i.e. when I'm on the freeway, police stops me, they ask me what I have in my trunk or where am I going, can I say "I don't want to talk to you" and call a lawyer?

Long story short, yes. 5th Amendment means that you have the right to remain silent, 4th Amendment means that you have the right to refuse searches until the cop provides the necessary documentation. Both of these rights apply to foreigners.

All the lawyer probably will say is refuse entry until the cop shows a search warrant, and speak as little as possible.

There are some abusive states out there when it comes to foreigners. Arizona for instance is famous for having abusive laws / cops towards foreigners. (Arizona SB 1070, part of which was struck down as Unconstitutional however). So its important to remember that the law changes from State to State (its only natural in a country that is ~3000 miles wide).

He most definitely is an American now. Otherwise he would be deported by now.

I don't know anyone in my circles who "has" a lawyer. So what to do when you encounter a situation with law enforcement officials? If I am at home, sure, I can search for a nearby lawyer's contact information. But what if I am at airport or some place where I cannot search for one? How do I find a lawyer in that case?

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish."

it is when you're arrested. Until arrested - my understanding that one don't have to answer questions. Though personally i found it is really impossible to insist on your rights, i basically just chicken under stress : https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6142434

"Am I free to go?"

I have some recollection that it was a bunch of Erlang code, from some other article about it.

Edit: Hah, wow... ok, so it's a small world. If I'm not mistaken, this is the same Sergey Aleynikov:


I've been interacting with him quite a bit lately regarding his erlexec code. He strikes me as a nice guy.

Edit2: Looks like he's asking for donations to help fund his defense: http://www.aleynikov.org/

The justice system is, of course, still in the business of catching and punishing murderers, thieves and such. But, with the decline in crime since the early '90s, this side of their activity is becoming increasingly supplemented by a different game altogether: enforcing a growing set of complex laws against practically everything [1]. There is a lot of prosecutorial discretion in choosing which of these laws to enforce and the degree to which to enforce them. With prosecutors often competing against each other in the number and severity of convictions secured, it's hardly surprising that they've arrived at the age-old algorithm used by street muggers: pick the most likely victim, and go all in. A guy like Aleynikov was thus ideally suited as a prosecution target: unlikely to excite much sympathy from a jury with his heavy accent and un-American looks; clueless about lawyers and confessions; cooperative enough to sign statements that were re-formulated by investigators to look bad in court; high-tech enough to mark novel and impressive prosecutorial checkboxes. They consequently made sure to squeeze him for all he had.

So, while I think the often repeated advice about never talking to the police sometimes goes too far (it's probably good to have a friendly relation with the neighborhood cop, and by all means please help in apprehending murderers and burglars if you safely can), it's pretty much dead-on as soon as you step into enforcement la-la land:

- Don't consent to any searches.

- Don't say anything without a lawyer.

- Put great effort into finding a competent lawyer.

- Don't say anything your lawyer hasn't approved.

Beyond refusing help to efforts to prosecute you, such steps will clearly mark you as a non-victim. (Same advice as applies when you have to pass through a mugging-prone area.) This will cause a lot less effort towards pushing through with your case. After all, there are other suckers born every minute.

[1] http://reason.com/archives/2009/10/19/were-all-felons-now

Once targeted by something like this, how does one go about finding a competent lawyer? How do I evaluate their competency?

look at their boy of work, their specialty, their work history, and then sit down and talk with them they should be able to quickly start asking questions about relevant specifics

Always ask for immunity or ask them repeatedly to rephrase their questions as a vehicle of supporting a useless conversation. Until they bring papers for you to sign immunity, tell them that you do not understand and tell them to explain it differenty because you do not understand.

You can be held for 24 hours than you have to be released. After you are released make sure to find strongly worded complaint that whoever you dealt with overstepped their boundaries. Scan then submit it. Put up a scan on your website and link all relevant resources that have been used to harass you and jail you for that period of time. Add diquis or some other commenting service and roll with it.

Most importantly, don't say anything that might incriminate you. Even if they have you on video doing it with hundreds of witnesses and DNA evidence.

That's the whole point of not talking unless a lawyer is present (and you give them a chance to vet your speech). You have very little chance of knowing what is incriminating, and this is by design.

Their job is to put away criminals. In the case where there is not really a crime, their training, which is meant to get confessions from actual criminals, ends up pulling seeming confessions to nonexistent crimes from innocent people. After that happens, you are screwed.

Even in cases of "actual" crime, the system is quite content to put away innocents.

Note that even denials, e.g., "I have no idea of what you're talking about", can result in charges, if they're provably false (e.g., there's a record you do know what they're talking about -- email, twitter, writings, conversations, etc.). These typically lead to various "obstruction" charges.

Simply refuse to comment.

Don't say anything. At all. Nothing you say will help your circumstances, but it can hurt you.

Actually, according to the supreme court, you have to verbally invoke your right to remain silent. If you dont, and they harass you for 16 hours and you say anything, its fair game. If you do, and they opt to keep harassing you, its not.

I know what you are getting at, but that recent SCOTUS decision didn't implicitly say that. However, it did make it clear that you can't talk with police (thus waiving your right), refuse to answer a question, and then answer other questions. In essence, it's not the police's job to figure out whether or not you're invoking your right.

“He was stringing these computer terms together in ways that made no sense. He didn’t seem to know anything about high-frequency trading or source code.”

Programming is esoteric to common folk. Almost like witchcraft. When things go wrong for villagers, they often burn witches.

They didn't burn witches in the old days because of some moral failing that we've outgrown. They burned them because they were unable to understand that "witches" didn't actually cause plagues.

> "He was stringing these computer terms together in ways that made no sense."

That's how I see job specs from recruiters.

That cringing sensation you got when you saw the scare quotes around "subversion repository" is the same feeling people in trading get when journalists write about HFT and algorithmic trading. You can see an obvious example in the article where Michael Lewis applies scare quotes to "dark pools."

dark pools scare me a hell of a lot more than witches - possibly because the continued functioning of the financial system is more important to me than warts.

how, all they are is usually unlit "unadvertised" elob's?

I have no idea what you are talking about, but the reason they scare me is because they provide an opaque mechanism for trading that enables or allows the unmanaged exposure of major financial institutions. This means that the confidence that anyone can have in a particular counter party in a transaction is undermined - whether or not they are participating in these transactions, because we cannot know.

Most markets are regulated in such a way that unlit venues have to report executions back to the lit market. Also most alternative venues will operate through clearing houses (the same as lit public markets). The risks you mention are real but as mentioned most sophisticated markets have regulations and rules in place to mitigate them - after all a darkpool or crossing network that failed to find quality and non flakey contra parties doesnt present a compelling case for its use!

I was working at one of the rival HFT's mentioned in the article when all this went down. I had some thoughts.

-It's never ok to take proprietary code with you after quitting. I don't know anybody that would have thought that was OK, especially with the amount of money people were making off this IP in 2008. Of course that's true in any industry, but especially in trading.

-That said, you can't just walk out the door of Goldman on Friday and be trading on Monday, even if you had their entire codebase. The infrastructure needed to be a world-class HFT player at Goldman scale is insanely complicated and prohibitively expensive to all but the most well-funded folks these days. You're going to need colo space and power at tens of trading venues, low-latency WAN infrastructure to ship production quotes and data around the world, expensive exchange gateway connectivity, quant research platforms and a giant compute cluster, significant devops and monitoring infrastructure to run and monitor it all, and smart people evolve the stategies, models, and code as it decays while you're setting all this stuff up.

I agree- it's not okay to take proprietary code. But criminal charges and an 8 year sentence? Totally disproportionate.

That is some advertisement for Goldman, work for us and you will be fine, quit and we will sic FBI, Police or whoever we can find to persecute you, take your money destroy your family and ...

.. man this sounds like some mafia.

Oh, agreed. I was surprised at the attitude that taking code might be a commonplace thing. Didn't mean to defend the punishment.

What does it mean exactly to 'take proprietary code'? You mean he had a copy on his laptop so he could work from home? Isn't that what most of us do?

Was it a personal laptop or a GS owned laptop? I don't want to defend GS and I think the criminal charges are overboard (and I don't understand how they think it's ok, hopefully it hurts their ability to recruit), but generally when you work for a company it is NOT ok to put company assets on personal machines.

Every company has its own policy, but I would bet GS wasn't cool with putting their code on personal machines.

Regarding your second point, the code for the strats would be immensely and immediately more useful than the trading platform. You wouldn't need much infrastructure to build a profitable strategy to trade against it.

nohuck13 - Can you email me on the address in my profile? I have a couple of questions regarding the industry. Thanks :P

I was on a jury for a murder trial, and so I have some insight into how juries work.

At one point, when I was splitting some hairs and discussing the meaning of some small details from the evidence, one of the other jurors got impatient and reached for the coroner's photo of the victim. "Someone died here, you realize."

I was on a jury for an arson trial, and the deliberations were pleasant and rational and focussed on the evidence and what it meant without anything like that.

Some of its probably the difference between murder and arson without personal injury in the mix, some of it is probably the luck of the draw in the jury pool. How a jury worked and how juries work aren't really the same thing.

I should add: The majority of what I experienced was similar to what you did.

Appropriate response: "If we convict the wrong guy, the real murderer goes free, you realize".

Actually, it turns out that that wasn't true, at least not under the relevant law.

The defendant was a gang member and a participant in an armed robbery, and when things got ugly (the victims fought back) one of the gang members shot one of the victims.

It was not proved to us that the defendant was the shooter, but -- as I was shocked to learn -- California law put him on the hook for the murder.

Possibly whoever actually shot the victim is still at large. The shooting took place at night, outdoors, the eyewitnesses were all drunk, and their testimony made it clear that, under the circumstances, they could barely tell one black man from another.

It's called felony murder. If someone is killed during the commission of: robbery, rape, arson, burglary, or while escaping from prison, anyone involved in the underlying crime is liable for the death.

I was on a jury (robbery) in the UK. It's a crime to say, afterwards, what happened in a jury room in the UK.

So could you punch one of the other Juriors and get away with it, since they can't press charges?

ahh, it may only be "deliberations" that are protected. so you'd probably be able to say "he punched me!" but not why...



You should have taken him to a side and told him to go watch 12 Angry Men when he gets home.

12 Angry Men might, perhaps, not be the best example.


EDIT: Actually, this is the one I should have linked to: http://www.avclub.com/articles/did-12-angry-men-get-it-wrong...

The AV club article

assumes that people never lie or are unreliable witnesses, even though the movie presents clear evidence to the contrary (and this is well known in the real world),

assumes that the police conduct a thorough investigation instead of railroading a suspect who fits their prejudicial profile,

and assumes things (like the knife) are uncommon because they are foreign to himself, though they may be quite popular in other social circles.

That's exactly the point of the movie, and the author completely missed it.

The avclub link makes more errors than I can count, honestly. For one, you don't combine the probabilities unless they're independent. So for example, the kid losing his knife and the murder being committed by the same kind of knife aren't independent, because it's plausible that the kid left the knife at his father's place and the actual killer used it to commit the murder.

The next problem is that prosecutors systematically reinforce confirmation bias in presenting their case. The probability that someone has brown eyes and is 5'7" tall and lives in New York and knows the victim and has a motive etc. etc. would seem to be strong evidence (especially if you're assuming them all to be independent, which they're not), but that only works if you're taking an unbiased sample of the possible characteristics of the perpetrator, which the prosecutor explicitly does the opposite of. If there is no apparent motive, or the knife used to kill the victim isn't a match for the one the defendant is known to have, or the perpetrator was wearing a suit and the defendant isn't known to own a suit, you won't hear any of that from the prosecution. And if you only consider the things that match, using the article's flawed method, all additional evidence can only ever increase the probability of guilt, since any evidence to the contrary doesn't make it into the calculation. All you have to do is keep collecting evidence and excluding anything that doesn't comport with the prosecution's theory of the crime and soon you have a seemingly insurmountable case.

Then you have the "DNA database" problem with statistics. Take a 1 in 10,000 chance and it sounds like solid proof ("99.99%") but if the population you're testing against is 6,000,000,000 people then you still have a pool of suspects containing 600,000 people. You can't then just pick one of those people arbitrarily and claim a 99.99% chance that that was the perpetrator, the probability that a person is the actual perpetrator if chosen at random from the group of individuals whose DNA would match is only ~0.000167%. It isn't good enough to prove that a defendant is statistically in the top thousand people in the city as far as probability to have been the perpetrator of a particular crime. You still have to exclude all the others or you'll convict the wrong man.

That doesn't dispute anything about 12 Angry Men for me.

Or smacked him and told him to grow the fuck up.

Weirdly, a jury I was on absolutely went for me arguing something was "Necessary, but not sufficient" during our deliberation. That one surprised me.

Side question: how do these people with "only the vaguest interest in his fellow human beings" end up with a wife and three kids? It seems to be a common theme amongst articles like this. They always paint the hero-programmer as some kind of rainman figure and then it turns out he has a loving family. Just the usual fictional press nonsense I guess.

EDIT: should always read on before commenting:

"He married a girl and manages to have three kids with her before he figures out he doesn’t really know her."

As far as the article has it, it wasn't a match of love. It was just two Russians getting together through the ex-pat community, she got security and money to spend, and he just did it because it was the thing to do.

I am someone who has only the vaguest interest in my fellow human beings, and has a great, loving relationship with my girlfriend. Different people want different things. I enjoy my girlfriend's company and enjoy spending time with her and a few other friends but in general I detest the presence of other people in my physical vicinity.

Of course they overstepped. They basically mugged a person of their life savings, deprived them of their liberty, and ruined his marriage over nothing of consequence.

This article is also interesting in that the total blind trust McSwain put in Goldman's explanation of the situation really illustrates the typical mob hit-man mentality of most law enforcement agents. The Big Boss gives them a name and they take that guy out, no questions asked.

It's all down to laziness, IMO. That FBI agent could have done some research for verification and realized that Goldman was selling him an overblown story. What's the point, though; the courts will do their background research eventually, right? And by then they'll be arresting the next poor schmuck Wall Street doesn't want to lose to a competitor.

Or insider connections; I would bet that the people in charge of security at Goldman are probably former FBI, Secret Service, or similar background.

While stupidity isn't a crime, people like Serge manage to find their way around that obstacle.

It's pretty obvious he didn't have any malicious or illegal intent, but he definitely followed the checklist of 'things not to do when leaving a job'. Emailing yourself code? Seriously?

The whole thing is a travesty, but he walked right into it.

That was my impression too. For someone that smart in a technical field, some things just seemed a little to casual or didn't make much sense. Deleting your bash history because there might be passwords in it? I generally give the benefit of the doubt to the guy in his position--maybe he was in a hurry or got comfortable being one of the chosen few super users--but, you have to think wtf.

At a company like that where IP is highly valuable and you are paid handsomely, you know right off the bat that every character of code you right belongs to the company before even seeing employment and/or confidentiality agreements.

Dating another woman or stuffing a large object in your trunk late at night right after your wife dies, does not look good. You may very well be innocent, but it doesn't look good.

I have passwords in my bash history - namely mysql passwords.

Use the --defaults-extra-file to point to a file containing the password and stop the madness. At least that is what I think should be done if entering the password is inconvenient or not feasible (like in an automated script)

Why? Use 'mysql -uroot -p' It prompts for the password and does not show up in Bash hsitory

From the article:

"He didn’t fully understand how Goldman could think it was O.K. to benefit so greatly from the work of others and then behave so selfishly toward them."

I don't think he understands Wall Street.

While I'm a capitalist, I wouldn't conduct business with Goldman. They have a history of screwing the market (semi-ok), screwing their customers (not ok), and screwing their employees (not ok). And then blaming everyone else. I expect a certain degree of ethical behavior.

On the contrary, Goldman generally stands by their employees provided they believe the employee stood by them. See for example, Fabrice Tourre, who's personal legal expenses were entirely covered by Goldman.

I think Goldman always stands by Goldman, first and foremost. And so do the lawyers paid by Goldman. Cf. in Fab's case they rested their case literally the minute they had their turn, without calling any witnesses. From day one I was amazed at the guy's naivete of accepting the "gift" from Goldman that he be represented by their lawyers. It's the rule #1: get your own representation folks. Company lawyers don't work for you, they work for the company.

Resting their case without witnesses is a fairly standard strategy in court - it's a way of emphasizing that the case has so little merit that there is nothing to argue against.

In this case it was also a way of wrapping it up quickly and not dragging GS any deeper into it.

But he was convicted of a financial crime. It's not in Goldman's interest for that sort of thing to happen.

honor among thieves? thats an even better reason to not do business with goldman.

In case people aren't clear on this. He worked in an industry that takes this sort of thing very seriously. He shouldn't have even been trying to download open source from work. You don't email stuff home to work on it, for example.

I would think this would be common sense at any job - unless otherwise specified in your contract the work that you do for your employer belongs to your employer, full stop. According to the article he freely admits that what he took included proprietary code - that is theft.

Now, was Goldman reasonable here? No, we can probably all agree that Goldman and the government overstepped a lot of bounds chasing this guy down. That said, I don't think some form of prosecution was unreasonable.

That might be, but it's a CIVIL issue not a CRIMINAL one.

The commercial espionage laws might justify bringing it into a criminal case, although (and I'm only on page 7 here) it doesn't seem like they proved, or even attempted to, that the removal of the code was in the interest of using it in his new endeavor. From the sounds of it he was primarily interested in bringing out some modified libraries. So while incidentally bringing out the proprietary code might well qualify him for the civil case, the commercial espionage accusation seems pretty damned weak, especially since the laws are designed to protect trade secrets (the formula for new coke anyone?) as opposed to this blatantly more mundane potential piece of IP. Also depending on the licenses of the open source stuff (as hinted at in a prior comment), it may not have been within the guy's legal authority to hand over IP rights to GS for some of the code.

Ultimately it looks like a case of GS being able to command the government to do things. Why that's possible I have no idea. Unless they have a lot of dirt on everyone in the world.

Initially I thought something along these lines as well. But according to the article, it was common practice:

> They’d followed his case in the newspapers and noted the shiver it had sent down the spines of Wall Street’s software developers. Until Serge was sent to jail for doing it, Wall Street programmers routinely took code they had worked on when they left for new jobs. “A guy got put in jail for taking something no one understood,” as one of them put it. “Every tech programmer out there got the message: Take code and you could go to jail. It was huge.”

No way. You sign away any rights to anything you come up with. You get the lecture on it. This guy Serge got shut down when he wanted to open source something. (although GS has open sourced some simple and non-strategic stuff, as a presumable PR move)

By both the letter of what you agree to and industry standard it's not really ethical to dump your employer's code into Dropbox or whatever. They go a long way to block it, blocking sharing sites, USB ports, etc. I'm not saying it doesn't happen all the time, just like brokers taking their client lists. People justify it by saying 'really, I'm supposed to look these people up in the phone book?' or 'really, I'm supposed to re-implement this simple function?'

How unethical sort of depends on how much of an edge you take, it's one thing if it's stuff you did yourself that would be inconvenient to recreate, the equivalent of your spiral notebook, something else if it's what other people did that would have been impossible to recreate.

But I think Serge demonstrates ignorance and naivete by thinking that was normal practice, and both Serge and Lewis demonstrate an ethical blind spot.

Did he deserve to be made an example of? I have no idea if he did or why that happened. Maybe there was stuff in there that was viewed as very proprietary. Maybe it was clever, or they just had an inflated sense of its value. Maybe what seemed trivial to Serge seemed extremely valuable and proprietary to GS. Or maybe he just pissed off the wrong guy. Or maybe they were getting poached a lot and decided to take a stand. I don't think we'll ever know. Certainly not based on this article.

But he's arguing that he worked on open-source code, which isn't something he is legally able to sign over the rights of.

whatever he or anyone at Goldman did on that open-source code, belongs to Goldman, and he can't assign the rights of or share it, either, it's up to Goldman (and the terms of the license).

> it's up to Goldman (and the terms of the license).

It is really up to the license, Goldman either selected licenses where they could legally avoid sending upstream changes or planned to violate the law in secrecy. If they did the latter on just one license, then he should qualify as a whistle blower.

what common open source licenses would require them to send changes upstream? Or really, what licenses would require them to release the modified code to the public?

GPL requires you to make source code available to anyone who you distribute the program to. If you're just putting code on servers, there's no obligation. Even if you distribute internally, you usually are technically distributing to the company for installation on their computers.

Even the AGPL, designed to be viral for web applications, requires the operator of the server to make the code available to users of the server. Assuming all users were Goldman Sachs employees, I don't see any legal obligation for them to contribute back to the community.

Pretty much all other licenses are less copyleft than GPL and AGPL and would be even less likely to trigger source code distribution requirements.

> Even the AGPL, designed to be viral for web applications, requires the operator of the server to make the code available to users of the server. Assuming all users were Goldman Sachs employees, I don't see any legal obligation for them to contribute back to the community.

Given that GS is a multi-billion global behemoth which runs a bewildering array of computerized services with an even larger array of customers, I'd be pretty shocked if they didn't have some API or client functionality which would trigger the AGPL if they included AGPL'd code in it.

Sorry to spread FUD, I was under the impression that non-OSI compliant licenses sometimes made this requirement, but I can't find any actual examples so maybe it was an overly cautious question I was always answering 'no' to to get import approval.

Even if such a license existed, it's still the responsibility of the derivative code's owner to comply. If they refuse, then they can be sued, but their code can only be released under the license by their deliberate action.

The Netscape Public License is the only one I'm aware of. But it's not OSI-compliant (and thus, to most people, not open source) and I'm not aware of anyone still using it.

> il Serge was sent to jail for doing it, Wall Street programmers routinely took code they had worked on when they left for new jobs.

This is a huge grey area, well maybe not so grey right now. Often you can't seperate quants from their excel sheet( or R models) and they will keep these models as they move to new firms.

As far as programmers keeping the code they wrote, This is the first time I've ever heard of a programmer, and I'm one, leaving a shop and bringing their code with them.

Let's just say, there is no ambiguity what-so-ever about how employers feel about this in the finance industry.

The best way to keep your code after you leave an employer is to make it public to begin with. The key is to get permission to make your library open source from the get-go. I've done it before and it worked out very well: People who did not work for my employer contributed patches that made it better. Essentially, we got people to work for us for free! How can you say no to that?

If there's nothing proprietary (i.e. trade secrets) you're really better off making it open source. Many employers seem to think that every line of code their developers write is 100% proprietary but they're really doing themselves a disservice with this attitude.

That widget library your developers wrote? It is probably less than 1% of your code base and even less of a priority for them. Wouldn't it be better to just put it on the web under an open source license and hope for the best? If your competitors get their hands on it then... What, exactly? They might improve it for you?

Banks take security v seriously even trying to plug a usb drive into you pc to copy files will be logged and will probably get you fired.

Getting fired for breaking policy is fine. Calling in favors to the Feds and nailing someone for 8 years is not.

He was caught bang to rights with company property how is that different to a shop worker getting caught with some of the shops goods

Quite obviously the coffee shop worker would not be serving time in Federal prison. He caught caught with source code, not with using the source code, selling the source code, threatening to sell or release the source code, etc etc. No actual damage occurred.

That must explain my bank's insistence on not having passwords greater than 9 characters, without spaces or most "special characters." They take security seriously!

Perhaps you're conflating the banks' security with that of their customers.

First of all: Banks do not take security very seriously. I know this from first-hand experience working at banks. What they do take seriously is people "leaking" or sharing proprietary information.

Secondly: Being fired is not what happened to this guy. He was prosecuted and sent to prison. Not even remotely the same thing.

The question isn't whether Sergey did something he shouldn't have. It's whether Goldman and the government overstepped in prosecuting him.

Being sentenced to 8 years in prison based on wildly ill-informed testimony is clearly not a reasonable response.

Yes, he did something stupid. It's not clear that he did anything wrong, but he should have known (and maybe did) that this was a really bad move on his part. It's not worth it to take work code out of its place, especially not in finance where this will be prosecuted.

Unfortunately, engineers fail to account for the fact that image and credibility matter far more than substance. This is a case of a man who really had no intention to do anything wrong, but almost certainly did break the law in a pattern that's a notorious bugbear in finance.

Did he break the law, specifically the espionage act?

I could see theft of property, possibly, but the furthest I could see it going is breaking an employment agreement, which is a contract between two private parties and doesn't bring criminal charges for violations.

Yes banks tend to be considered CNI (critical national infrastructure)

the The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (as amended 1994 and 1996) seem to indicate that financial institutions are protected computers

"intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access" which this guy did.

It depends how much capital the entity you steal from has. In the case of Goldman..well you don't want to fuck with the Gold Man...he's got quite a hammer.

How do you know that he did not intend to do anything wrong? I certainly don't his intentions.

My favorite part of all of this is the scare-quotes around "subversion repository"

You think if they chose to use Git for version control the agent would have not thought anything of it? Subversion just sounds too menacing?

Well, I'm sure they'd find some other, equally ridiculous way to interpret "Git" - obviously the programmer was making a statement about the stupid "gits" in charge of the company...

Oh no! The hackers are coming with their terrible powers of "subversion"!

Wow. Naivete is a bitch... Or one hell of a drug, depending on your viewing angle.

And given his re-arrest on what appear to be spurious charges (1st set were thrown out on appeal), I can't help but agree with this comment on VF: "When Goldman says 'jump', the gov't says: 'How high?'"

As an attorney and someone moderately interested in politics, it's becoming more and more clear that technical literacy is going to play a huge role in law and policy.

We desperately need more politicians, bureaucrats and law enforcement who at least have some basic technical knowledge.

Empathy is the only way to prevent stuff like this.

Usually people who attain technical knowledge are the same type to avoid politics.

Politics is a "soft" game of imperfections, where as technical knowledge is the opposite. Cold, hard, objective.

What incentive is there for technically-equipped folk to deal with the imperfections and heartache of interacting with non-technical folk than to take a white collar job amongst other technically-minded folk?

I completely agree.

Maybe it should be more incumbent on politicians and law enforcement to learn more about technology and incorporate more private citizens as opposed to just big corporations in the dialogue.

It's frustrating, I think everyone realizes that technology is going to become a greater and greater part of every day life in government and yet there hasn't been much of a push for elected officials to give a shit to do anything but fundraise with it.

> technical knowledge is the opposite. Cold, hard, objective.

Life isn't that black or white. Companies run on soft games, the world, your product succeeds not because of "cold, hard, objective" amazing technical design but due to soft irrational people. I'd argue that there are enough people in tech well versed in the soft game for money to be made.

This was not a case of ignorance or lack of empathy. The system worked as intended: the tallest poppy was cut down, his downfall was a PR victory for someone's reappointment campaign, and by extension someone else's reelection.

Technical knowledge would merely give them Google level efficiency at shafting their victims.

This makes me angry. Not just the story itself, but the way VF goes about telling it, which commits the same sins (albeit with better intent) as Goldman Sachs. "So-called 'subversion repository'?" Why don't we just accuse him of summoning demons while we're at it?

Maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but I think the author's emphasizing that the term itself sounds like damning evidence to anyone who doesn't know better, since subversion means "a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within." He's pointing out that agent used such terms without understanding them (or exploited the public's ignorance to make their case). That's why he put it in quotes.

Lewis goes on to explain, later in the article, that subversion repositories are commonly used and aren't evil. He could have explicitly spelled out that the term subversion relates to version control, but I think he explained it adequately enough given the intended audience.

To be fair to the agent, I think uploading company code to your private third party repository is pretty bad.

Especially if you are thinking (later in the article, quoting the programmer), 'they wouldn't like it', 'it was like speeding, in a stolen car'.

Oh, I agree, but the point the article seemed to be making was that the agent thought it was fishy that the name of the repo was "subversion", rather than "github" or "bobs-useless-code-dump". It was a complete misunderstanding of what was important (storing code elsewhere), and an ascribing of malicious intent ("subversive") to it.

(For that specific instance at least) Read the start of that paragraph again. That's supposed to be the FBI agent trying to describe what happened and being completely flummoxed by the use of subversion that doesn't line up with the dictionary definition.

> 'Then he explained what he knew, or thought he knew:...'

Michael Lewis is a great writer about economics. He appears to have gotten out of his depth here.

Wow, I don't know why the name didn't register. Yeah, he's spectacular when writing about economics or sports.

I thought that was supposed to be sarcastic, poking fun at the terminology as viewed from the non-tech savvy jury and FBI agents. Though, as always, that's not an easy thing to tell online.

Although I acknowledge the sympathetic angle of the article, I cannot fathom why he would take such a risk.

During my 2 years consulting in global investment banks in NYC, it was standard practice for all employees, internal or external, with access to sensitive data or IP to undergo comprehensive IP compliance training and execution of IP agreements. This had to be performed within a month or so of engagement or your badge and account would be deactivated. Every year at a particular client required the training to be repeated.

It was inculcated that violations of such policy had a high likelihood of being caught and would carry very significant penalties. In my experience, they successfully established very taboo cultures around transmitting IP out of their systems.

An interesting takeaway from this piece is that GS is blatantly and systematically violating the terms of the MIT license, GPL, and whatever else they happen to get their hands on. I'd love nothing more than for the FSF to take them to court over it.

Me too, in principle, but realistically I think it would be a poor bet to make. Given the legal resources available to the respective parties there is a real danger that GS would win despite the merits, and possibly even set some precedent that Open Source folk would not find favorable.

That's only true if they distribute the code, is it not?

IANAL, but I don't think so. Practically, probably; legally, unknown.

> The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

That makes it sound like ripping the license out and replacing it with a proprietary one, even for purely internal use, is probably a bad idea. I don't know who'd be able to sue them for that, though, if the original copyright "owners" aren't supposed to have seen it in the first place.

Article II of the GPL has a specific exception for transferring GPL-ed software to employees to work on without letting them spread it beyond that, but I don't know how much of this that would cover.

Copyright only applies when you distribute something. With your internal copy of something that you don't redistribute you can modify it however you like, and the GPL or any other copyright license never gets a chance to apply.

GPL, perhaps, but I'm not sure how you think they're violating MIT.

The only clause in MIT (besides the warranty disclaimer) is that the MIT license and original copyright notice must remain on all copies of the software.

They did mug him, but it's considered a huge no-no in financial services to take any kind of code home. It's impossible that he didn't know the gravity of what he was doing when he did it. It's always a terminatable offense at the very least, and frequently leads to more.

Programming is starting to seem like a relatively dangerous kind of work.

When I took Criminology (or perhaps it was Deviance), my professor made me read this book: http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Going-To-Prison/dp/1559501197

It was written decades ago, and is still relevant today. Sadly, I think programmers should begin reading it, as prison seems to be growing into a larger threat for us.

If it was a normal company you could boycott them, but how do you boycott Goldman Sachs for all they have done?

Why boycott GS? It's their state, country and mostly their world to loot. They have been above the law for over 80 years. They own the current administration, courts and congress. I wouldn't doubt it if someone claimed they had access to much of the NSA collection due to the amount of influence they have...

You could try to convince other programmers not to work there? I really think that's the only way.

The best lesson here:

> The fourth, and final, rule was by far the most important: Don’t say a word to government officials. “The reason you don’t,” he says, “is that, if you do, they can place an agent on a witness stand and he can say anything.”

Aren't you allowed to have a lawyer present in conversations with agents?

A right he did not exercise

How does this case not violate the eighth amendment? Or if not that, basic fucking justice and morality. He's lost everything, spent a year in prison, was acquitted of federal charges, and now is being charged by NY State? The justice system is seriously broken.

Where in the article is the actual story? Can someone please point me to the page and paragraph that contains what actually happened? What did he do?

My understanding is he copied a bunch of confidential code off company servers and then deleted the audit trail from the servers. He claimed that the confidential code copied was accidental and that he only meant to copy some open source code.

It's a little harsh to say he deleted the audit trail. He deleted his bash history. Something I do on a near daily basis.

The exact details (which aren't disputed) are covered in:


Basically he'd written a backup program which was specifically designed to compress both his home directory and propriety code from elsewhere on the system into a file (which it would do depended on parameters passed).

On his last day of employment he ran it several times with different parameters which including copying propriety code. He then encrypted the file and then uploaded it to a SVN hosting service before deleting the encryption program and his bash history. Because it was encrypted it bypassed GS's automated scanners.

He then downloaded the source files to both his laptop and external flash drive and took them to work at his new employer.

Given the (undisputed) facts, he clearly broke several laws, the question is whether he was doing it innocently and just being stupid or if he did it with serious criminal intent.

I don't doubt he did something illegal and I don't care particularly what his reason is.

What is way more troubling to me is how apparently easy it is for Goldman to get the highest levels of government involved and throw the criminal book at someone over what is typically a civil matter.

Any company can ask for a criminal referral on a corporate espionage case (United States v. Nosal is a major one), and while it's becoming more common it's still pretty unusual for companies of all sizes because it's often expensive for the company involved (legal counsel, staff time, etc) and means that they lose control of the case.

"The highest levels of government" and "Goldman Sachs" are pretty much interchangeable: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20001981-10391695.html

It's hard to believe he did it accidentally. He probably just underestimated GS's reaction and didn't think it was a big deal. Firms like GS and other HFTs are excessively sensitive about their IP - especially the code base. Whenever an employee leaves, especially to go to a competitor, they're going to have a team of people checking what that person did. When you get in bed with the devil, you need to accept the rules.

Yes he probably had the Russian laissez faire attitude to IP and had obviously not been listening at all to the training courses all big companies have on ethics and computer security.

I agree its pretty obvious that this was a deliberate action

How was he caught?

Why do you delete your bash history daily. For "security"?

He deleted his bash history (AFAICT) because it had passwords in it.

if you are entering passwords on the command line such that it lands in your history, then you "delete it at the end of the day", you're not securing anything.

you can turn off history for one command. That's better than deleting bash_history (well, I don't know what an auditor would say about that).

But you should be storing your passwords in secure files, not entering them on the command line.

I rarely nuke my entire history, but frequently prune commands out of it.

As I develop I frequently change parameters/calling conventions on the applications I'm writing. While scanning the history I don't want bad commands to still be there.

Bash history was never meant to be an audit trail and treating manipulating it as some form of security violation is idiotic.

What are the benefits of not simply putting 'unset HISTFILE' in your shell rc?

That's inaccurate. I just read the Lewis article and there are plenty of facts recited there contradict your summary; none of those facts support it.

He deleted his bash history, which many programmers do every day, indeed, that's what the justice department used as evidence that he "deleted the audit trail"

Once you look at the details of this case--in fact, even just the details as recited in the public documents filed by the Justice Department--a completely different story emerges. A few facts just for context:

the person arrested and later set free by a Federal Appeals Court, Sergei Alienikov, is an accomplished programmer with a long history of open source contribution, for instance, he is the author of the (original?) ZeroMQ Erlang bindings. (http://zeromq.github.io/erlzmq/)

The code that Goldman claims that Alienikov "stole" was code that he had written while employed by them; indeed, according to Goldman SA was hired to build their HFT rig, which he did. According to the Justice Dept documents, he only took a small portion of the total codebase (~ 2%) and he took that on the last day, six weeks after he had resigned from Goldman.

SA claimed that code comprised his revisions to an open source library he used to build Goldman's HFT system. Combined with the fact that he took that on his last day in the office (he had resigned six weeks before (at Goldman's request, he stayed an additional month) and was open about his plans to work for a competitor, (and which his employment agreement did not forbid). Clearly a smart guy, but a pretty dumb criminal, which pretty strongly suggests he's no criminal at all. If his plan was to steal this codebase (the one he had in fact spent the previous two years writing) he would have, to begin with, actually taken all of it, not just a small fraction, and second he would not wait until his last day. These circumstances were relevant in that case because SA was on trial for committing a felony, and to prove guilt requires proving some criminal state of mind ("intent to steal", the complaint calls it.)

What's more, Goldman had absolutely no evidence that SA used any of this code or gave it to anyone. The government's complaint is astonishingly frank about that. My understanding is that trade secret theft requires some unlawful use to actually constitute an IP theft.

In our industry( HFT ) generally, you sign all sorts of agreements which specifically prohibit you from taking any code whatsoever from your employer without specific authorization to do so. Michael Lewis article almost makes it sound like its Goldman's fault. But the fact is, he signed agreements that prohibited him from doing stuff like this and then did it anyway

IANAL, but that wouldn't be just a breach of contract and not something for the FBI to investigate?

Violation of private agreements is typical a civil matter.

yea, ask Aaron Schwartz.

if he really wanted to take only open source code, he could have cleared it with his managers and his compliance officer, and they would have let him take stuff that is clearly open source most likely.

>if he really wanted to take only open source code, he could have cleared it with his managers and his compliance officer, and they would have let him take stuff that is clearly open source most likely.

The VF story addressed that (page 4, near the bottom). According to Aleynikov, GS cared not a bit for the terms of the Open Source license and considered anything that ever made it into their systems as GS proprietary code.

With the vast majority of open source software licences (including the GPL) you're perfectly entitled to integrated it into your propriety code without releasing it if you're not distributing it externally.

The only exception of any size is the Affero GPL but even that only applies if you use the code in an external customer facing service.

I probably should have phrased that more carefully. GS appears to care little for Open Source principles.

Yep - but in this case it's also something that they would have made very clear upfront and made him sign a document to show that he had understood those terms

It seems unrealistic to call bash_history an audit trail, when it can be trivially circumvented:

     set +o history
    steal secrets
    launch missiles
     set -o history

It's a Michael Lewis piece—it's worth reading the whole thing. (And when you're done, then The Big Short, Moneyball, and Liar's Poker.)

Black and white letter of the law, he should not have sent the modified Open Source programs home. The modifications really would be the employers property and the employer has all the power to release them. That said, he had been sending the files home to work on all along (before changing jobs) and never was EXPRESSLY TOLD to stop. That is why the original case would have been tossed as there was noillegal access" going on.

The second case for sending secrets is closer to legit. But only because if you send secrets out at all, if you didn't have permission, it could be illegal.

The REAL issue is font work for asshats that don't play nice. Alternately, accept that as a programmer mixing hobby Open Source projects with your Employment projects is a recipe for trouble.. Take their money and be a sucky leacher.. Or post your fixes to maintainers from home, reengineered solely at home with no files from work.

As somebody who does admin work, its a great excuse just to not take work home at all unless its on my company laptop.

Russians had a reputation for being the best programmers on Wall Street

Is that true?

(the rest of the paragraph was interesting, and worth repeating for anyone who read the whole article):

Serge thought he knew why: they had been forced to learn programming without the luxury of endless computer time. “In Russia, time on the computer was measured in minutes,” he says. “When you write a program, you are given a tiny time slot to make it work. Consequently we learned to write the code in a way that minimized the amount of debugging. And so you had to think about it a lot before you committed it to paper. . . . The ready availability of computer time creates this mode of working where you just have an idea and type it and maybe erase it 10 times. Good Russian programmers, they tend to have had that one experience at some time in the past: the experience of limited access to computer time.”

IIRC one speculation on the matter was that the information that was taken would have proven that GS engages in all sorts of illegal and rule-bending trading strategies (say it ain't so).

edit: added quote from court record below.

"...because of the way this software interfaces with the various markets and exchanges, the bank has raised a possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways."

See page 8 http://www.scribd.com/doc/17191934/USAvSergeyAleynikov-7409-...

I don't have anything useful to say, but: "Serge figured, it was a matter of unfolding the box, turning a three-dimensional object into a one-dimensional surface"

Now how does one do that? :) And he shouldn't have had to used the Pythagorean theorem on just a one dimensional line...

Sigh. Just thought it was funny, since the article was about how programming/technical jargon goes over the heads of jurors, the FBI, etc. but seems like the article writer isn't immune to it either :)

There are multiple ways to unfold a box into 2 dimensions. For example, see this printable pattern that you can try at home [1].

Also, how else would you determine the distance between two coordinates in a plane without using the Pythagorean theorem [2]? It's not like he could use a measuring tape in an imaginary, unfolded room.

EDIT: I reread your post and see that you are pointing out a typo. The phrase "one-dimensional surface" was obviously meant to be "two-dimensional surface." A one-dimensional surface is non-sense.

[1] http://familycrafts.about.com/cs/coloringpages/l/blboxtempla...

[2] http://www.purplemath.com/modules/distform.htm

Yes, sorry - I was pointing out the "one dimensional" typo.

And now he's being charged by the state of New York. This will never end as long as Goldman Sachs continues to pull the strings, I fear.

I have worked with Goldman and UBS. UBS, to it's credit, has taken a liberal stance and explicitly addresses contributions to Open Source : if they are done on your own time, that's fine. Goldman, in contrast, had the usual, "anything and everything you do or do not belongs to us" agreement.

ITT: journalists don't "get" programming.

It sounds like a couple of tech-savvy journalists should start the equivalent of http://getreligion.org.

A reminder everyone, the only thing you should ever say to a law enforcement officer is "I'd like to see my attorney."

The only thing I find odd is the deleting of the bash history. There are no passwords in there, unless you type one by accident.

If he used wget (or similar utility) he could specify password as a command line argument. It's not a very good practice security-wise but people do this sometimes.

Like the opening of the Vanity Fair article, I never and still do not understand exactly what he did that is illegal.

That's the problem with the American judicial system. Whenever they want to convict someone innocent of a bullshit crime they just assemble of idiots who just say guilty to go home to their trailer. Have they heard of the phrase "jury of their pears" that actually means pears not of the same species. I wouldn't consider any of the people on that jury my pears.

jury of one's peers n. a guaranteed right of criminal defendants, in which "peer" means an "equal." This has been interpreted by courts to mean that the available jurors include a broad spectrum of the population, particularly of race, national origin and gender. Jury selection may include no process which excludes those of a particular race or intentionally narrows the spectrum of possible jurors. It does not mean that women are to be tried by women, Asians by Asians, or African Americans by African Americans.


But originally jury of ones peers was a right of (so called noble) Englishmen to be judged by other lords, and not by commoners. Sadly, it does not give intellectual people the right to be judged by others with above room temperature IQ (what is it they say, a jury consists of 12 people not smart enough to get out jury duty?).

> Sadly, it does not give intellectual people the right to be judged by others with above room temperature IQ

The closest English precedent for that was not the "jury of one's peers" but the "benefit of clergy".


I for one would be fascinated to see a jury of pears.

jury of my pears? Why would the jury consist of fruits?

Man, talk about risks computer programmers don't usually consider in taking a job on wall street.

Goldman is above the law.


That article is riddled with inaccuracies.

Try listing them

His 'second jury' were comical.

"Most were surprised by how little he had taken in relation to the whole: eight megabytes in a platform that consisted of an estimated one gigabyte of code. "

Really? One gigabyte of code? Or one gigabyte of third party binaries, precompiled libraries, documentation etc.? All you need are the source files, and those language keywords compress nicely. Exactly how much plain text do you think they have?

' "But that’s the secret sauce, if there is one,” said the juror. “If you’re going to take something, take the strats.” '

Rubbish. The strats are the easy (or at least easier) bit in the high frequency space. That's like taking a dump of the html from facebook/twitter and thinking you've stolen their site. It's the scalable, distributed infrastructure that drives large websites, and it's the fastest possible infrastructure that drives HFT. One thing Lewis got right is the Coke/Pepsi analogy, and it really is that simple. A straight up race.

" “It’s way easier to start from scratch.” "

It is, and it isn't. In even the worst codebase there will be nuggets of usefulness that will accelerate the process. Isolated parts of the system that you've perfected. Exchange message decoders for example (ITCH, FIX/FAST, etc.). This is especially true when you, the genius who will be starting from scratch, has worked on it for a few years. I assume he was doing something useful in his time at Goldman.

I'm not buying the innocent act.

> In even the worst codebase there will be nuggets of usefulness that will accelerate the process. Isolated parts of the system that you've perfected. Exchange message decoders for example (ITCH, FIX/FAST, etc.). This is especially true when you, the genius who will be starting from scratch, has worked on it for a few years. I assume he was doing something useful in his time at Goldman.

The new system was going to be written in a different language than what Goldman uses.

And? How does that make it any less useful to have the existing code as a guide?

I don't know...having the existing code available seems like it would be more useful for the "strat" stuff than for the infrastructure, if you posit that it's all going to be rewritten from scratch in a different language. But I don't know shit about trading, so maybe I'm wrong.

Aren't these problems the jury faced or measured incorrectly rather than inaccuracies in the article itself?

This is the first front-paged post I know of where nobody's invoked Betteridge's Law of Headlines, which I find particularly ironic.


I was actually just about to post a corollary to Betteridge's law of headlines, which is:

Any headline asking if Goldman Sachs committed malfeasance can be answered with "yes."

The article was very sympathetic toward Aleynikov and accounts his acquittal on appeal, so it breaks that "law" (which IMHO is upheld primarily due to confirmation bias).

which IMHO is upheld primarily due to confirmation bias

I agree; this was my point. Its frustrating to trot out a trite middlebrow dismissal for when we don't like something and to pretend it doesn't exist otherwise.

I haven't clicked through, but only the government (via prosecutors) can charge anyone with criminal offenses.

Additionally, while private people can suggest charges or report crimes, ultimately they have zero say one way or the other if charges actually get filed.

See also: Apple/DoJ/Gawker, ATT/Apple/DoJ/weev, JSTOR/MIT/aaronsw

>only the government (via prosecutors) can charge anyone with criminal offenses.

That's almost universally true, but some states still do in fact have the right of private prosecution. E.g. New Jersey allows you to swear out a criminal complaint directly to a magistrate, and there isn't a damn thing the police or a prosecutor can do about it.

Private prosecutions used to be the norm. It's actually a very powerful force against police corruption, and I wish it hadn't gone away in so many states.

Also, in cases like this, the prosecutors will generally defer to the desires of the victim, especially when the victim is one of the world's most powerful corporations.

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