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Morning Coffee: Ex-Goldman employee depicts firm as vindictive taker asking unusual interview questions

Goldman

It is a day of news relating to banker court cases. Kweku Adoboli is appealing against his conviction relating to UBS. Fabrice Tourre has been found liable for defrauding investors whilst working for Goldman Sachs. And Michael Lewis’s much awaited Vanity Fair piece on Sergey Aleynikov, the former Goldman Sachs computer programmer convicted of stealing Goldman’s proprietary code, has been made available for public consumption.

Goldman insiders have dismissed Lewis’s article as a ‘sexed-up headline for an old story,’ but the piece contains some new elements. Most damning is Aleynikov’s assertion that Goldman regularly defied the rules of give-and-take when it comes to open source code sharing.

‘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,’ says Lewis. Lewis says that everything on Goldman’s servers became Goldman’s property – even when it had been developed for free for the public good and Goldman had simply uploaded it for safe keeping.

In the circumstances, Goldman’s legal pursuit of Aleynikov for stealing its code is portrayed as excessive and vindictive. Much of that code was open source anyway, argues Lewis.

Goldman interview questions

Beyond from the commercialization of communal code, Aleynikov also offers some interesting insights into the interview process at Goldman Sachs. Aleynikov was asked some intensely challenging questions, including: ‘Is 3,599 a prime number?’ and given the following puzzle:

‘There is a room, a rectangular box, and these are its dimensions [not specified]. There is a spider on the floor at coordinates x,y,z [not specified]. There is also a fly on the ceiling, at coordinates a,b,c [not specified]. The spider can’t fly or swing, it can only walk on surfaces. Calculate the shortest distance the spider can take to reach the fly.’ 

Aleynikov solved this by turning the three dimensional object into a one dimensional surface and using Pythagoras’ theorem. He got the job.

Meanwhile:

Mr. Tourre was living in a “Goldman Sachs land of make-believe” where deceiving investors is not fraudulent, argued SEC. (Dealbook) 

Ross McEwan is the new CEO of RBS. (WSJ)

‘Ross McEwan, a water-skier and cyclist, could bring a different style than Hester, who has a passion for gardens.’ (WSJ)

McEwan to be paid salary of £1m, less than Hester who had £1.2m. (Sky)  

McEwan has preemptively agreed to give up his bonus for the rest of 2013 and the whole of 2014. (WSJ)

SocGen is slashing €900m of costs by 2015. It’s only cut €170m so far. (Financial Times) 

SocGen’s higher profits were partly due to an increase in equities revenues from Asia Pac. (Dealbook) 

Net income at SocGen’s corporate and investment bank was up 185% year-on-year in the second quarter. (Bloomberg) 

France’s market share of European equities has plummeted nearly a quarter since the introduction of a national financial transaction tax (FTT) last August.(The Trade News)

People who are bullied at work tend to be seen as unattractive. (WSJ) 

Writer gives a graduation speech: How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional? (NYTimes)

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