SocGen former trader gets three years for code theft

A former Société Générale trader has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of stealing the bank’s secret algorithms.

Samarth Agrawal was arrested and charged in April last year, around the time he was set to start a job with Société Générale competitor, hedge fund Tower Research Capital.

Testimony during a two-week trial revealed that Agrawal planned to use the code to help build a high-frequency trading system at the hedge fund.

He was found guilty by a New York court in November, and was sentenced to prison by US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff at the beginning of this week, according to Bloomberg.

As well as imprisonment, Agrawal was sentenced to two years of supervised release, and the judge said that he may also be deported to India where he is a citizen after the prison term.

Agrawal, a 27-year old who worked for two years at Soc Gen’s Manhattan offices, is accused of copying thousands of lines of algorithmic code into word processing documents and printing them off to take elsewhere.

The code, developed and owned by Soc Gen, was vital for the bank’s high-speed trading and was protected in the same way Coca Cola might defend its list of ingredients and KFC “guards its recipe for chicken”, according to prosecutor Thomas Brown.

Although Agrawal maintained his innocence throughout the trial, on 17 November he admitted in a testimony that he knew copying and printing the code was wrong. He repeated his admission in a statement to the judge before he was sentenced.

On 29 November, a similar code theft trial took place in the same court, when a former Goldman Sachs programmer, Sergey Aleynikov, will appear on charges he stole algorithms to take to his new employer.

The issues at Société Générale follow an unrelated trial, in which rogue trader Jerome Kerviel, a former employee, was last month convicted of unauthorised computer use, forgery and breach of trust. He was handed a three-year prison sentence and an unprecedented €4.9 billion (£4.3 billion) fine.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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