NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors asked a judge to close parts of the criminal trial of a former Societe Generale trader to protect bank secrets.
Prosecutors have made a similar request in an unrelated trial involving a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc computer programer.
Both trials are scheduled in November, and both involve high-frequency trading, an important business that makes millions of dollars for some Wall Street banks.
The former SocGen trader, Samarth Agrawal, 27, a citizen of India, was arrested in New York on April 19. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing trade secrets and is being detained before the November 8 trial.
In court documents filed on Wednesday evening, prosecutors asked presiding U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff to seal trial exhibits from the public, close the court to the public when the evidence addresses the nature of the bank’s trade secrets, and seal certain transcripts.
“Not only do victims of trade secrets theft have a strong interest in not being re-victimized when their trade secrets are disclosed to the public and their competitors during trial, but the government has an interest” in enforcing the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, prosecutors argued.
Ivan Fisher, a lawyer for Agrawal, said on Thursday that he will fight the government motion in court papers and at a pre-trial conference on November 4.
“It is grossly prejudicial,” Fisher said. “What does the process convey to the jury when they go on recess and then when they come back, suddenly the public spectator section is empty?”
It is common for parties to request the closure of courtrooms when proprietary secrets or sensitive information might otherwise be disclosed publicly.
The government made a similar argument in court papers on Monday in asking U.S. District Judge Denise Cote to seal the courtroom for part of the criminal trial of former Goldman Sachs computer programer Sergey Aleynikov.
Aleynikov, who was arrested in July 2009, has pleaded not guilty to charges of theft of trade secrets and is scheduled to go on trial on November 29 [ID:nN27239872]
The cases are USA v Agrawal, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-417 and USA v. Aleynikov in the same court No. 10-96.
Reporting by Grant McCool; editing by John Wallace