The theft of major trade secrets is not an uncommon occurrence, but rarely does it play out in such a dramatically public fashion as in the case of Sergey Aleynikov. In March, the former Goldman Sachs computer programmer was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for stealing the firm’s proprietary trading platform and attempting to shop it to a new employer.
Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs in June 2009 for a new job at a Chicago trading startup called Teza Technologies. On the last day of his employment he encrypted the software—which the company had purchased for $500 million in 1999—and sent it to a server in Germany, then deleted the traces of his activity. Goldman Sachs, however, suspected a security breach and called the feds. Aleynikov was arrested at Newark Airport on July 3, 2009, by federal agents after bringing a laptop and storage device containing the source code to a meeting at Teza’s offices.
“Some people might think, ‘They’re not really going to come after me in court—I don’t have any money, it’s not going to be worth it,’” Crowther says. “But the idea that they might go to jail—the defendant in Goldman got 97 months—that’s a big deal.”