It's time for the first large industry scandal in the new year. The matter is directly related to the American studio Gearbox Software best known for its Borderlands series. The information was collected by Kotaku, which discovered that last November Gearbox's lawyers sued Wade Callender, the company’s former attorney, accusing him of misappropriation of company funds. Callender was supposed to take employer’s money, which he used to settle his earlier obligations (repayment of home installments and MBA courses). However, he never settled the account in full. Moreover, using a company credit card, he bought himself a private holiday, paid for membership in a shooting club and purchased firearms and accessories, as well as booked training sessions in a gym. The case is taking place in one the local Texas courts at the moment, but the accused has requested that it be moved to another place.
Callender was not indifferent to the employer's accusations and in December he responded to Gearbox by Gearbox, suing personally Randy Pitchford, CEO and co-founder of the studio, who was also his close friend. The lawsuit begins with the words:
Randy Pitchford is a manipulative and morally bankrupt CEO who shamefully exploited his oldest friend, a Texas attorney and military veteran named Wade Callender.
The attorney accuses Pitchford of appropriating twelve million dollars in 2016, given to Gearbox as a bonus by the company’s publisher, Take-Two. According to Callender, a substantial part of that money should go to the developers’ pockets, as well as finance the next stage of work on the new Borderlands. Instead, it was to be secretly transferred to the account of Pitchford's private company – Entertainment Media Magic company. The attorney was forced to hide this fact.
Pitchford's former associate also brought some bigger guns, accusing him of possessing child pornography. According to the testimony from the lawsuit, in 2014 the Gearbox CEO forgot his USB drive in one of the restaurants in Dallas. The data allegedly contained confidential financial information and the said pornographic materials. However, the lawyer didn’t know about it when he recovered the USB drive. Because Pitchford was in San Francisco at the time, Callender just in case asked the studio staff to back up all data, and have them sent to the owner in case he needed them. When Pitchford realized the situation, he immediately demand that all copies of the drive be deleted. To add fuel to the fire, Callender adds that the Gearbox CEO used the company's money to organize a series of events called Peacock Parties in his home, during older men were to expose themselves in front of minors.
After the case was publicized by the media, Gearbox issued a long statement. The studio's lawyers stated that they would battle Callender's accusations with full force. First, they’ll complain to the agency controlling the work of lawyers in Texas (State Bar of Texas), indicating his unethical behavior and giving false testimony. They also note that in the lawsuit, the lawyer uses highly specialized legal language and various types of language tricks, such as the use of quotation marks every time the term "minors" appears. These types of treatments are to protect him against possible accusations of defamation. According to Gearbox, the attorney is now caught between a rock and a hard place, so he is ready for everything to slander his former employer, even at the price of his further career in the profession.
Let's add that a few weeks ago, Pitchford referred to the story of the USB drive when he made as a guest appearance in the 75th episode of The Piff Pod podcast, which was released on December 22. In his version of the story, the drive actually contained confidential documents and pornography, but it was a session record he bought with an 18-year-old chat girl. The drive, whose data was not protected by a password, was found by one of the restaurant’s employees. After checking its contents, he became acquainted not only with the company's financial situation, but also with its planned projects. The boy quickly returned the drive to the studio, receiving gadgets and free games in return.
When it comes to the parties with “minors”, mentioned by Callender, Pitchford points out the absurdity of these accusations. Gearbox CEO lives at a large manor on a protected housing estate. For some time, he and his wife have been organizing closed events in the estate under the name of Peacock Theater, where various local artists and performers can present their craft. Journalists, neighbors and other selected guests are invited to the events, which have nothing to do with the description from the lawsuit. What’s more, the course of the whole event is also to be recorded on video, which additionally undermines the lawyer's testimony.
This situation will certainly not help Gearbox's reputation, even if the accusations are largely groundless. This is not the first time that the studio has to deal with a scandal. Just a few months ago, one of its former employees was accused of misappropriating three million dollars. In 2014, the company conducted a court battle against Sega, accusing the ex-partner of misappropriation of funds received from Gearbox, as well as against players who filed a class action after the fiasco, which was the release of Alien: Colonial Marines. This time, however, the matter is more complicated and personal. Wade Callender has had been friends with Pitchford since childhood. However, their relations have significantly deteriorated lately. Which means that there are offended feelings and egos at stake. That's why Callender is ready to take revenge on his former boss and colleague.
- Gearbox Software Official website