The proprietary trading software developed by a trading firm is considered the crown jewel of the operation. Woe to any disgruntled employee who tries to steal it. And woe was exactly what was visited on former Société Générale trader Samarth Agrawal, accused of stealing the bank’s high-frequency trading software for use at his new hedge fund job. The jury convicted him yesterday in a quick decision.
Agrawal was also convicted of transporting stolen property across state lines. The jury verdict was expected, given that Agrawal admitted on the stand Wednesday “all the essential elements” of the theft of trade secrets charge, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said.
For most of the two-week trial, Agrawal denied any wrongdoing. Indeed, during the first part of his testimony, he said that he had taken SocGen’s code home on orders from his superiors. But he later admitted that he “did it because I have to build the similar system at Tower” Research Group, a hedge fund that had hired him.
Tower has denied that it hired Agrawal to get access to the prime broker’s high-frequency trading software.
Agrawal will be sentenced on Feb. 24. Rakoff said on Wednesday that he suspected the late admission was part of a “sympathy defense.” It appears to have worked; on Friday, Rakoff said Agrawal “may be entitled” to a lesser sentence due to his “acceptance of responsibility.” He faces between three years and 10 months and four years and nine months under federal sentencing guidelines; the Indian citizen will likely be deported from the U.S. after completing his sentence.
SocGen said it was “satisfied” with the verdict.