Activision and EA settle Infinity Ward suit
Activision and EA have settled a lawsuit over the latter's alleged courting of former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella. The pair's legal fight with Activision is, however, still headed to trial.
The Call Of Duty publisher dragged EA into the case late in 2010, accusing its rival of holding secret meetings with West and Zampella with a view to them setting up a new studio. In a joint statement, the companies said: "Activision and EA have agreed to put this matter behind them." The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
While one potentially messy court fight has been avoided, then, the original case, brought by West and Zampella, will go ahead. The pair are suing Activision for a host of legal transgressions, claiming they were fired so the publisher could avoid hefty bonus payouts following the launch of Modern Warfare 2 in November 2009.
The case will be put before a jury on May 29, and with the trial date rapidly approaching Giant Bomb has obtained a court filing in which West and Zampella accuse Activision of effectively spying on them in a bid to turn up evidence of wrongdoing to justify their being fired.
The filing says that Activision commenced what was codenamed Project Icebreaker a few months before the release of Modern Warfare 2. It was initially meant to improve relations between Activision and the Infinity Ward heads, but contingency plans were in place should those efforts prove fruitless. Which, of course, they did.
It focuses on Thomas Fenady, former director of IT at Activision, who is now with Warner Bros. He claims that in the summer of 2009 Activision's then-chief legal officer George Rose told him to "dig up dirt on Jason and Vince" because "we just want to get rid of them."
Fenady was then told: "Don't get caught doing it," though Rose then claimed that, even if he were caught in the act, "Bobby [Kotick, CEO] will take care of you… Don't worry about repercussions."
In his deposition, Fenady confirmed to Activision's legal team that his investigation involved accessing West and Zampella's work email and voicemail, though the pair's personal computers and telephones were not included in his brief. Rose denies ordering Fenady to "dig up dirt," but admits that he asked for the duo's email correspondence to be monitored.
Stunning stuff, and as Giant Bomb points out it's likely only the tip of the iceberg of revelations we can expect from the jury trial later this month. Activision requested a 30-day delay to the trial to allow its newly appointed lawyer to catch up with the case, but that was denied.
Earlier this week Activision paid out $42 million to staff who left Infinity Ward in the aftermath of West and Zampella's exit. The publisher's thinking was that the evidence they held against the pair did not implicate the staff who followed them out of the door. The lawyer representing the group, however, believed the payment showed that Activision "knew they owed the money, and this just shows that they breached the contract."