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Ex-Societe Generale Trader Accused of Stealing Code

The Societe Generale SA headquarters
The Societe Generale SA headquarters stand in Paris, on Feb. 18, 2010. Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Former Societe Generale trader Samarth Agrawal was charged by the U.S. with stealing the company’s computer code for high-frequency trading.

Agrawal, 26, charged with one count of theft of trade secrets, is accused of making copies last June of one part of the code he’d been given access to and another part that he hadn’t. He was arrested today, according to federal prosecutors in New York. In August and September, he also printed portions of the code from a Microsoft Word file he created, they said.

“Over the past several years, the financial institution has spent millions of dollars to develop and maintain a computer system that allows the financial institution to engage in sophisticated, high-speed trading on various securities markets,” according to a criminal complaint unsealed today.

Agrawal was hired by Societe Generale in New York in March 2007 to work as a quantitative analyst in the high-frequency trading group, according to the complaint. He was promoted to trader last April and resigned in November, prosecutors said. Before resigning he deleted a computer folder on his personal network drive that contained the code, they said.

Agrawal’s lawyer, Steven M. Statsinger, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Internal Probe

The Paris-based bank discovered the misappropriation after conducting an internal probe, informed law enforcement and has been cooperating with the investigation, according to a company statement e-mailed by spokesman James Galvin.

“No client information or funds were involved in the incident,” according to the statement. “SG vigorously protects its propriety information and intellectual property.”

After he submitted his resignation, the bank tried to get Agrawal to stay, according to the complaint. He said he wanted to return eventually to his native India to start his own high-frequency trading firm, according to the complaint.

“While it took years for his employer to develop its sophisticated computer code, it allegedly only took Samarth Agrawal days to steal it,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement.

Societe Generale is France’s second-largest bank by market value. BNP Paribas SA is France’s biggest bank.

The case is U.S. v. Agrawal, 10-mag-00779, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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