Monday, July 06, 2009

Goldman's "Stolen" Program Trading code

(I am sitting here with a HP dv9700t laptop with two broken hinges, trying to cross my knees in such a way that the screen will be propped up in a way that I can see it. I am going to Spain for the last two weeks in July, so right before I go, I will send the laptop off for repair. I estimate the repair cost to be about $300. I cannot believe that HP makes a complete line of laptops whose hinges crack after a few months, and are so arrogant and uncompromising when it comes to addressing this issue.)

I spent an hour on Monday morning reading the great post on ZeroHedge about the Goldman developer who zipped up the code to a High Frequency Trading (HFT) system. I am not going to rehash what has been written in the various news outlets. But, it's always interesting to read Lars Toomre's opinions on the subject. (Update: here's another one from Hack The Market)

I am not going to weigh in on my own opinions, as I feel that it's not appropriate to comment on the public issues that one of our competitors is going through. But, here are some things that I have seen in my time on Wall Street:

1) Many developers seem to come to a new firm with some old code in hand. I have interviewed candidates in the past where, in the middle of an interview, they pull out a stack of printed source code and show it to me as proof of their coding ability.

2) Many coders think of themselves as authors and artists. When they write something, they want to keep a copy for posterity sake. They might not ever want to use it again. They just want a memento of what they have written. There is no malfeasance intended.

3) Companies are cracking down. Look at what went on with Morgan Stanley a few years ago when a consultant sent client data to his personal email account. You always have to assume that every keystroke, every out-going email, every website you browse to, is being monitored by your company.

In my opinion, you can always write the same application again, but even better. And, if you bring your old source to a new company, you are putting your new company in a precarious situation. And, if you decide to work on any other projects in your spare time, make sure that you check your employment contract very carefully ... some companies say that anything you write during your term of employment belongs to them, even if you write it in your off-hours at home.

©2009 Marc Adler - All Rights Reserved.
All opinions here are personal, and have no relation to my employer.

No comments: