The Russian Programmer and Goldman Sachs

Another title of this essay could be — Goldman Sachs owns the FBI — or the FBI does the Bidding of Goldman SachsoldWildWest1

You really need to read the full story linked below by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair, plus the follow up link to Naked Capitalism to understand the full impact of how evil Goldman Sachs is and how the FBI is working for the corporations. Also the follow-up discussion by techies on the Naked Capitalism linked story adds further understanding to the FBI and Goldman Sachs attempt at owning another human being for his mind*. In the end this may be the real story behind the story. This is a story about the misuse of the judicial system and how the really powerful corporations can get away with anything.

Vanity Fair has a very long story by Michael Lewis, about the Russian programmer who was accused  by Goldman Sachs of stealing proprietary programming from GS. I’ve been following this story since the FBI claimed to be onto “the” high tech crime of the decade. From the beginning it seemed like the FBI was working for Goldman Sachs and basically the FBI had very little idea what the hell they were talking about.

I’m going to focus on what the real crime was and the criminal happens to be Goldman Sachs — stealing open source code — and claiming ownership to open source code — this is the crime that Goldman Sachs should be charged with. The Russian programmer, Sergey Aleynikov, is brilliant at what he does — and that is probably why Goldman Sachs is trying to put him back in jail — they don’t want him to use his brilliant mind for any other company.

Aleynikov was brought in to apply virtual duct tape to an antique computer program that was used for high frequency trading. Rather than have Aleynikov write a faster and better program he was merely used to keep the ancient computers and programs working. When Aleynikov got a job offer to build a software computer system from the ground up — he quit Goldman Sachs — and that was his real crime.

In order to fix some of the glitches in Goldman Sachs’s old program Aleynikov resorted to open source code — and my computer programmer geek friends make heavy use of open source codes. We all benefit from Open source code — I’m a fan of water sports — sailing and snorkeling for example. If you want to take photos in the water then you need an water proof camera. GoPro fits the bill — and the GoPro developers made extensive use of Open Source software. This company is ethical and does not try to copyright open source software — but Goldman Sachs removed the open source copyright notice and replace it with the Goldman Sachs copyright — a huge violation of the copyright law.   Rajiv Sethi writes:

  Aleynikov relied routinely on open-source code, which he modified and improved to meet the needs of the company. It is customary, if not mandatory, for these improvements to be released back into the public domain for use by others. But his attempts to do so were blocked:

Sethi then quotes Michael Lewis’ Vanity Fair article:

Serge quickly discovered, to his surprise, that Goldman had a one-way relationship with open source. They took huge amounts of free software off the Web, but they did not return it after he had modified it, even when his modifications were very slight and of general rather than financial use. “Once I took some open-source components, repackaged them to come up with a component that was not even used at Goldman Sachs,” he says. “It was basically a way to make two computers look like one, so if one went down the other could jump in and perform the task.” He described the pleasure of his innovation this way: “It created something out of chaos. When you create something out of chaos, essentially, you reduce the entropy in the world.” He went to his boss, a fellow named Adam Schlesinger, and asked if he could release it back into open source, as was his inclination. “He said it was now Goldman’s property,” recalls Serge. “He was quite tense. When I mentioned it, it was very close to bonus time. And he didn’t want any disturbances.” 

Open source was an idea that depended on collaboration and sharing, and Serge had a long history of contributing to it. 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… But from then on, on instructions from Schlesinger, he treated everything on Goldman Sachs’s servers, even if it had just been transferred there from open source, as Goldman Sachs’s property. (At Serge’s trial Kevin Marino, his lawyer, flashed two pages of computer code: the original, with its open-source license on top, and a replica, with the open-source license stripped off and replaced by the Goldman Sachs license.)

Aleynikov had two trials — one by the State of New York — and that verdict was tossed out by the appeals court. The second trial was by a group of Aleynikov’s peers — other techies who were familiar with high speed financial transaction software used by huge brokerage houses like Goldman Sucks. He was found innocent (but rather naive) by the jury of his peers. But then his peers understand the importance of open source code and the games that Wall Street plays. Hopefully no high level programmer will ever again work for Goldman Sachs.

Naked Capitalism — is where I found the Vanity Faire link to this story. Rajiv Sethi explains what open source code is and the sort of fraud that Goldman Sachs is engaged in. If you need one more reason to understand why GS is one of the most contemptible companies on Wall Street — which is saying a lot since the moral code of Wall Street is mostly AWOL — then reading Michael Lewis’s story and then Rajiv Sethi’s deeper explanation history of open source code will make you wonder why a lowly programmer did jail time when the crooks and robbers and liars at Goldman Sachs have the FBI doing their dirty work???

What many people can’t understand is why Aleynikov was only interested in writing code — that is his life — he was not really interested in the sort of gambling that Goldman Sachs calls “business”.

Here’s one of the things that Aleynikov learned from his experience — never talk to government officials — they lie.

To Sergey Aleynikov’s new way of thinking, every American could benefit from some time in jail, but in the event that you are yourself actually arrested and sent away, “there are certain practical aspects to keep in mind.” First, dress warmly. Detention centers tend to be freezing cold, even in summer, and so if you happen to be wearing shorts or short sleeves you’re in for a spectacularly unhappy night. Second, carry no cash. “If you have money, they charge you a convenience fee,” he explains. “If you don’t have it, they don’t charge you. The less money you have on you, the better.” Third, memorize a couple of emergency contact phone numbers. On the night of his first arrest he discovered he didn’t actually know his wife’s cell-phone number. He’d always phoned her by name from his cell phone’s address book, but his phone was one of the first things they’d taken from him.

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.”


Goldman Sachs violated the open source copyright — by stripping off the open source copyright and inserting the Goldman Sachs copyright —

Can I strip out the copyrights on Open Source code and put in my own?

Definitely not! This isn’t even about Open Source, really: in general, you should not remove a valid copyright notice, no matter what license it specifies. Copyright notices are legal notices; they are also a source of information about the provenance of source code, and if that information is stripped out, recipients of downstream copies have no easy way to rediscover it.

Pasted from <>


* The new slavery — owning the mind of another human being — whatever this human being creates on the job or off the job is owned by the corporation. Here’s a sample of the comments following the articles on Vanity Fair and Naked Capitalism:

We are inundated with claims that America is the ‘innovation nation’ and we must innovate to get our economy back on the road to prosperity. We are told that the well of innovation and progress in science is drying up. We’ve told that too few American young people pursue studies in the sciences, so the new immigration bill that recently left the Senate for consideration by the House roughly doubles the quota for H1-B Visas adds H1-B preferences for foreign students graduating from our schools with bachelor’s degrees and higher degrees in the sciences and engineering. The firm I work for has an agreement like the one that Aleynikov had with Goldman, only my firm claims all intellectual property which I might create on my time or theirs, whether related to my work or not.

I’ve heard similar words from computer engineers, genius and near genius level for years regarding their corporate employers.

There is this remark about open source code copyright —

There are several open-source licenses. (Google “” for one list.)

Every last one of them requires that Goldman Sachs retain the original copyright notices and license text on *all* copies. Every last one.

Goldman Sachs committed multiple cases of copyright infrignment for profit, and could probably be nailed to the wall for it.


So the FBI plays the attack duck and goes after the programmer — when the agent should have gone after Goldman Sachs for copyright violation.


One Response

  1. […] Russian computer programmer jailed on the word of Goldman Sachs called the high speed trades — gambling — and he wasn’t really interested because this was gambling. His job […]

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