The Free Traders, who at various times call themselves The Merchant Races or a religious organization, serve the galaxy in the same way hemoglobin serves the human body. The trade, in information and material, that flows through their worlds keeps the galactic economy healthy on both sides of the war. In many ways they are the ultimate mercenaries - if it has a price they'll undercut it to buy and triple it to sell.
Their claim to the label of "Merchant Races" stems from the fact that the Free Traders include anyone and everyone who sees safety in mobility. Many of the races that TOG hit with a Diaspora, like the Huldice, Lungdo and Ritha, have their last surviving members in this loose conglomeration of hucksters. The Free Traders have been described as the "Gypsies of Space," a comparison that is marred only by the fact that the Free Traders do claim some worlds for their very own.
Early on, TOG decided that taking those worlds would pump a direct infusion of wealth into its economic bloodstream. Profit Margin was the first Free Trader world TOG struck. The Free Traders put up no resistance and abandoned their trading center there. TOG inserted its own garrison and bureaucracy to keep the lines of trade flowing. The Free Traders gathered their people and headed out for the next closest Free Trader world, but before they entered T-space, they sent a P-comm signal that detonated a 500-kiloton nuclear device planted beneath the trade center, utterly destroying it, the garrisoning personnel and a great deal of surrounding landscape.
The other Free Trader worlds immediately began to undersell TOG traders when TOG was selling, and charge astronomically high prices when TOG decided to buy. This definitely created ripples of trouble throughout TOG, so the Emperor repudiated the actions of the Overlord who had taken and died on Profit Margin and offered reparations. Since that time, the Free Trader worlds have been relatively inviolate.
The state of affairs on Free Trader worlds is best described as "seething neutrality." The Free Traders cloak themselves in the religious trappings of an order that worships the Money Gods. (They make a great deal out of the misquote, "Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and unto the Gods that which belongs to them.") Their worlds fairly throb with the flow of money passing through them. Lictor and Renegade agents abound. Troops are allowed on-planet for Rest and Recreation, but the Traders segregate enemy troops into different quarters of their cities.