French stock market regulators have issued sanctions against five Ubisoft employees for insider trading, fining them a total of €1.2 million (approximately $1.7 million). Ubisoft is appealing the judgement.
The Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), a body that monitors and regulates the French stock market, had accused Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat and four other executives of selling stock in early October, 2013, just before the announcement that Watch Dogs and The Crew would both be delayed to 2014. After those delays, the value of Ubisoft stock dropped by around 25 per cent.
This morning, the AMF handed down their decision to fine all five executives, giving them varying sanctions that all add up to €1.2 million. The breakdown:
Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat - €700,000 ($991,651)
Ubisoft VP of corporate affairs Francis Baillet - €200,000 ($283,329)
Ubisoft worldwide studios exec director Christine Burgess - €200,000 ($283,329)
Ubisoft Montreal VP of executive operations Olivier Paris - €100,000 ($141,664)
Ubisoft brand development director Damien Moret - €15,000 ($21,249)
Ubisoft told Kotaku today that they intend to fight the AMF's decision. Ubisoft argues that Mallat and the other executives weren't in a position to know about the delays when they sold their Ubisoft shares.
"Ubisoft acknowledges the AMF's decision, but continues to assert that the people involved acted in good faith," a Ubisoft spokesperson said in a statement. "We are convinced that these team members did not intentionally commit any acts contrary to market regulations."
The statement continues:
Similarly, given the processes and timetables involved in the production of major games at our company and within our industry in general, we believe that at the time they carried out their transactions these employees could not have been aware of or anticipate the subsequent decision to postpone the game that would be taken by Yves Guillemot on October 11, 2013.
Regrettably, the AMF's decision represents a serious misunderstanding of the game development and production process at our company and common to our industry. Each major game requires the involvement of multiple teams across the company, but ultimately only the company's CEO can make an exceptional decision such as changing a game's release date.
This news comes as Ubisoft is dealing with a serious threat to its independence as a publisher. Yesterday, the multinational corporation Vivendi announced that it had increased its stake of Ubisoft to 25 per cent, bringing it closer and closer to a hostile takeover.