A new report from consumer website 1UP highlights a previously unreported complaint by San Francisco-based video game art amd outsourcing firm Massive Black (contributing to Lair, Hellgate London) against two former employees alleged of stealing from the firm.
Massive Black accepts contracts by video game developers and publishers in order to create various project art and design assets, and has provided work for clients including Flagship Studios, id software, EA, Sony and others. According to the report, the company founders, including Jason Manley, have filed a civil complaint for injunction and damages against former employees James Xi Zhang and Jenny Chen. The complaint alleges that the two were stealing money and clients in order to create their own competing firm, while both employees were working within Massive Black's Shanghai branch.
The complaint also names 50 'John Doe' figures as a placeholder, in the event that the investigation uncovers other conspirators to Manley's allegations, which include Fraud, Unlawful Access to Computer Network/Tresspass, Interference with Contract, and Breach of Contract and Interference With Prospective Business Advantage.
According to papers filed with the court, Zhang, Chen and their co-conspirators “removed more than $100,000 in cash from Massive Black and placed it in a secret account.” The report also specifically highlights one occasion at the end of 2005 involving Bob Brattesani of Wild Planet Toys, during which Brattesani requested a bid by Massive Black, and Zhang allegedly provided without his company's knowledge, intending to siphon the money. Zhang allegedly used Massive Black's equipment and artists to work on the project for “Studio Takeover”.
The report noted that Massive Black became aware that its confidential assets and information were being used outside of the company in May of this year, and that both Zhang and Chen were terminated on June 16, 2006. However, both individuals somehow managed to allegedly steal an additional $50,000 from Massive Black after being removed from the company. Gamasutra will update this story with any further comments from those involved.
[UPDATE - 07/18/06, 8.56am PST - Massive Black's president Jason Manley has issued an official statement regarding the complaint. "Massive Black Inc. shareholders and founding partners have thought long and hard about bringing this action. We believe in this case and are going to pursue it aggressively."
"Massive Black; Shanghai and Massive Black: San Francisco are totally on-track. Our production is 100% on schedule (all milestones are being met early or on time), and we are working on a host of fantastic new projects received in the past few weeks. Both the 2D and 3D departments are firing on all cylinders - and we are in hiring mode."
"The sentiment around here is onward and upward. We are announcing the Concept Art Academy this week which is a 2 year concept design atelier program headed up by Massive Black Inc. and ConceptArt.Org. And, we are launching another North American Workshop here in San Francisco. We will have a major company announcement shortly regarding our new growth as well."
"If and when our attorney's advise us that we can speak more on the legal matter at hand, we will do so. For now, I am unable to comment further."]