The United States of Goldman Sachs

Since the recent financial crisis began, Goldman Sachs has received tens or hundreds of billions in cash from the U.S. Treasury and U.S. Federal Reserve. (The amount is likely in the hundreds of billions but is unknown because the Fed has handed out many TRILLIONS of dollars while refusing to reveal which banks received what.) And its former employees — like former Goldman CEO turned Treasury Secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson, who largely control Washington, DC financial policy — have whacked Goldman’s two main rivals/competitors — Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

As if you need any more proof Goldman’s running the show, look what happened after Goldman discovered a former employee had downloaded 32 megabytes of a 1,224-megabyte program:

Mr. Aleynikov was taken for interrogation to F.B.I. offices in Manhattan. Mr. Aleynikov waived his rights against self-incrimination, and agreed to allow agents to search his house.

He said that he had inadvertently downloaded a portion of Goldman’s proprietary code while trying to take files of open source software — programs that are not proprietary and can be used freely by anyone. He said he had not used the Goldman code at his new job or distributed it to anyone else, and the criminal complaint offers no evidence that he has…

Sabrina Shroff, a public defender who represents Mr. Aleynikov, responded that he had transferred less than 32 megabytes of Goldman proprietary code, a small fraction of the overall program, which is at least 1,224 megabytes. Kevin N. Fox, the magistrate judge, ordered Mr. Aleynikov released on bond…

Harvey A. Silverglate, a criminal defense lawyer in Boston not involved in the case, said he was troubled that the F.B.I. had arrested Mr. Aleynikov so quickly, without evidence that he had made any effort to use or sell the code. Such disputes are generally resolved civilly rather than criminally, Mr. Silverglate said.

“It is astonishing that the F.B.I. arrested this defendant at all,” he said. Other firms have also sued former employees recently over concern about high-frequency trading software, though two similar cases are the subject of civil suits rather than criminal prosecution.

Whether or not this former employee stole the code, it’s a private company’s responsibility to protect its proprietary code, not the FBI’s job. This was not code for launching nuclear missiles or protecting America’s vital infrastructure. It was not credit card information that could be used to rip off unknowing Americans. It was code written purely to make money for Goldman Sachs by buying and selling shares of stock really, really quickly and by exploiting unfair information advantages Goldman has.

Our tax dollars should not be wasted protecting software that helps Goldman Sachs get rich by taking dollars away from other investors.

Besides, what is Goldman Sachs doing with software that the U.S. government says “could be used to ‘unfairly manipulate’ stock prices”!?!? Should the U.S. be protecting Goldman Sachs' code or prosecuting them for market manipulation?

Posted by James on Monday, August 24, 2009