Thursday, February 23, 2012

Goldman Programmer Breaks Free

So, this Russian immigrant left his first and only finance job after a couple of years to work at another firm for 3 times the pay--and around $1 million-- a pretty clear case of stealing intellectual property (he was busted taking many lines of code). Yet interestingly, Goldman Sachs somehow got they guy convicted criminally, under the Economic Espionage Act, highlighting they have the best relations with all levels of our government. Aleynikov was freed on appeal last week.

Goldman is actually pretty reasonable most times. After all, many of their ex-employees go off to start successful funds, so it's not like they are paranoid, litigious bastards whose ex-employees don't get such opportunities. What this guy did was wrong, but this clearly was prosecutorial overreach: he was serving an 8-year sentence in Fort Dix. One thing I learned in litigation is that when a powerful guy wants you stopped, he will throw the kitchen sink at you to see what sticks. This is when intention drives tactics, because with federal or state law, intellectual property or confidentiality agreement, criminal vs. civil law, it doesn't matter, the company will use what works best, and some pretext will sound defensible to those without a dog in the fight (most everyone). But I really hope the people behind the initial legal decisions go to a special circle of hell because justice is about proportion, not right/wrong, and this was highly disproportionate.


LetUsHavePeace said...

Eric: The law as it actually works in the United States has nothing to do with "justice" or "injustice". It is simply the mechanism for paying all the judges, bailiffs, court clerks, lawyers, secretaries, process servers and others who would otherwise have to find gainful employment. Believing in "the law" is like believing in the public schools as "investments in education". If it helps you sleep at night, please continue to dream; but it has nothing to do with reality. If you had come to our firm (now closed as we have found business without clients far more profitable than business with them) and asked what to do about your plan to start a business, our advice to you would have been to discover your inner entrepreneurial illness. The first thing you had to do was become "sick" and "sickening" - i.e. to stay at home on more and more work days, to tell your bosses that you simply were too ill to complete assignments, etc. until they literally got fed up with you and let you go. The first rule of leaving any company to start your own is that you have to make your former employers have contempt for you and your abilities; that way they won't allow themselves to believe that your start-up had anything of value. You took exactly the opposite course. Big mistake. Time to get over it. All the best.

thereckoning said...

and some pretext will sound defensible to those without a dog in the fight (most everyone)"

Nice article. Plaintiffs, especially in the financial world, are scum.

Tel said...

It seems like there's a lot of the Wild West left in the United States, it just crops up in different places to where it used to.