Law360 Q&A with Peter Altieri

Peter Altieri, a Member of the Firm in the Litigation and Labor and Employment practices, in the New York office, was featured in a Q&A. (Read the full version — subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?

A: Cases involving quantitative analysts who develop and run computer trading programs for financial services firms are immensely challenging. In a number of these cases we have had to quickly determine whether the trading methodology employed by the analyst rose to the level of a legitimate business interest to which his former employer could properly claim protection and thereby enforce a noncompete aspect of a confidentiality agreement.

Arguably, if the confidentiality obligations contained in the analyst's agreement are observed, then in those instances the enforcement of a noncompete would be overreaching and anti-competitive. On the other hand, separating what is generally known in the industry and implemented by quantitative programmers versus what is uniquely proprietary to a given trader at a specific firm is not necessarily easily ascertained.

In one case we had a temporary restraining order hearing before a federal court judge and she granted an injunction preventing my client from working and not just restraining him from using confidential information by enforcing the confidentiality provisions in his agreement. It was a tremendous challenge to get a judge quickly to come to an understanding of how high-frequency trading programs worked and the role of the quantitative analyst. With all the publicity that the Goldman trader Sergey Aleynikov had in connection with his arrest at the airport after taking Goldman source code, it was very difficult to overcome the inherent concern of the judge about possible misappropriation of confidential information and true unfair competition where we had much more innocent circumstances.