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Report: Activision tried to 'get rid of' ex-Infinity Ward heads through IT brute force
Report: Activision tried to 'get rid of' ex-Infinity Ward heads through IT brute force
May 16, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

May 16, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    25 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



The ongoing legal conflict between Activision and ex-Infinity Ward leads Jason West and Vince Zampella got a bit more interesting today, as a newly-released court document claims that Activision launched an internal investigation against the Call of Duty creators eight months before they finally lost their jobs.

The filing, received by Giant Bomb, notes that Activision's former director of IT, Thomas Fenady, has testified that he received instructions to “dig up dirt on Jason and Vince” back in 2009 because “we're sick of dealing with those guys, their ego... we just want to get rid of them."

Fenady's allegedly received these orders from former chief legal officer (and current chief policy officer) George Rose, who assured Fenady that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick would protect him from any problems that should arise while tapping into West and Zampella's work email, computer, and phones.

Fenady quotes Rose as saying, "Bobby [Kotick] will take care of you. This comes from Bobby directly... Don't worry about the repercussions."

When carrying out the investigation, which became known as "Project Icebreaker," Fenady contacted Microsoft and digital security company InGuardians, hoping to gain covert access to West and Zampella's passwords and data. Both companies refused to help, however, as they didn't want to face any legal complications.

Fenady even testified that with Rose's blessing, he and his team discussed staging a fake fumigation or mock fire drill at Infinity Ward, keeping West and Zampella away from their computers long enough to allow Activision to image the contents of their work computers.

During his own testimony, Rose denied asking Fenady to "dig up dirt" on the Infinity Ward heads, though he noted that he asked the IT department to allow him to monitor all of Infinity Ward's email traffic, though these efforts allegedly proved unsuccessful.

Given these recent developments, Activision hopes to dismiss Fenady's testimony under attorney-client privilege, though West and Zampella's lawyers hope to use this evidence to prove that Activision planned to remove them from the company prior to the infamous falling out in 2010.

It's important to note that regardless of how things played out with "Project Icebreaker," Activision led additional investigations against West and Zampella around this same time. Giant Bomb reports that Activision previously asked its studios to seek evidence about potential misconduct from West and Zampella.

The company was particularly concerned that the pair had entered talks with Activision's competitors, including Electronic Arts. Once the pair lost their jobs at Infinity Ward, they joined EA to found their new studio, Respawn Entertainment.

The actual case between Activision and West and Zampella is about to get underway, with a trial currently scheduled for May 29.


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Comments


Kevin Matthews
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Like "get rid" of "get rid" of? *makes gun firing gesture with hand* That's some cold s***.

Maria Jayne
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That's....ugly

Benjamin Quintero
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Yeah Activision is making a huge mistake to let this run through the courts. It's a PR nightmare, but I guess the masses will still buy their games even if they do hire thug cronies to corner and interrogate their own employees. And apparently discuss faking a fire drill to confiscate their personal data. This is like some serious Mission Impossible stuff. Hollywood needs to pick up the rights to this movie.

Tyrone Lawson
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What kind of director of IT doesn't have full access to all emails on the server? Can he not remotely audit any workstation, or at least create an image of the hard disk after hours (assuming the home folder is not encrypted)?

Giro Maioriello
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It does seem strange to me too. The only thing I can think of is that Infinity Ward was in some way or other separate from Activision, had its own IT dept perhaps?

Bob Allen
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"Bobby [Kotick] will take care of you." Am I the only one who read that and had a flash to Sam Jackson saying that line in Pulp Fiction?

Albert T
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More like "Bobby [Kotick] wants you to do the dirty work."

E McNeill
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We're getting into the mustache-twirling zone.

Joe McGinn
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All we need now is a sun-blocker.

"I hate the sun and everything that lives in it."
;-)

Tynan Sylvester
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Get Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher on the phone. There's a movie here.

A W
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Why does this look bad for Activision who where only trying to protect their bread and butter, why did they give the action to illegally search e-mails a covert name like "Icebreaker", and what games are being spawned at Respawn Entertainment? These are things we need to know.

Matthew Mouras
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The actual trial hasn't even begun and I already want to break out the popcorn. This is going to be more entertaining than their last Modern Warfare game.

E McNeill
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Ready the reaction gifs: http://www.reactiongifs.com/?page_id=912

John Woznack
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If George Rose testified that he DIDN'T ask Thomas Fenday to "dig up dirt on Jason and Vince", and Fenday testified that Rose DID ask him to "dig up dirt on Jason and Vince", then clearly either Rose or Fenday is now guilty of perjury, no?

Yes, time to break out the popcorn!

Bryan Wagstaff
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I'm sure they'll get around it with hedge phrases like "I believe", "We both must remember it differently", and the favorite for people who want to disavow earlier statements, "I can no longer recall it clearly."

Timothy Barton
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At least it is good to hear that Bobby is probably an ass privately as well. We all know his "demeanor" publicly, at least now we know it isn't fake cockiness :)

Erik Carpenter
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Wow so Fenday's testimony is a clear indication of an intentional breach of contract and potentially wrongful termination of West and Zampella on Activision's behalf, as well? Did I read that right?

Jonathan Murphy
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Kotick if you are reading this. Stop treating your employees badly. You're supposed to do that to the customers. (zing)

Arnaud Clermonté
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" staging a fake fumigation or mock fire drill "
Thanks for the tip!
Now I know how what to do next time I want to change my colleague's desktop wallpaper for a naked David Hasselhoff photo.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Actually, isn't that illegal? And even though they didn't go through with it, the fact that they planned to is evidence of a conspiracy to commit a crime isn't it? It seems like the equivalent of yelling "Fire" at a movie theatre.

Bob Stevens
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Because having fire drills is illegal...

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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If you're talking to me, I was asking about faking fire drills at another company to sneak in and steal data. Is that legal, even ignoring the data theft (which could be argued as legal since Activision owns the studio)? I really don't know, but I imagine pulling a fire alarm with fraudulent intent is at least punishable by a fine.

Benjamin Quintero
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Jeffrey, you can coordinate with the landlord and the fire department and just tell them that you are testing the fire alarms as well as company evacuation procedures. Most buildings will do this once a year anyways so it wouldn't be much of a surprise.

Daniel Martinez
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If Kotick is found to be in a the wrong, I hope they make an example of him. Terrible leaders need to be flushed out of professional environments. They should be the ones at the bottom cleaning toilets, picking strawberries, and shining shoes.

Benjamin Quintero
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He'll probably get a raise. This is America, we fail upwards here =).


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