Ubisoft sanctioned €1.27 million for insider trading, publisher issues statement and plans to appeal (updated)

French stock market regulator fines Ubisoft employees.

Update: After accusing Ubisoft execs of leveraging insider knowledge to sell stock last month, the French stock market regulator—Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF)—has sanctioned the accused for €1.27 million. Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal, has reportedly been fined €700,000 alone. 

According to a translated article posted online by French publication LesEchos, the employees were punished for insider breach. As reported below, the AMF had claimed five Ubisoft employees sold stocks in the lead up to October 15, 2013—the day on which both The Crew and the original Watch Dogs were pushed back into 2014, a process which saw stocks allegedly fall by as much as 25 percent. 

LesEchos reports two of the accused were exonerated, however the AMF Enforcement Committee criticised the Transatlantic Bank for failing to report suspicious transactions in and around the dates noted above. 

Ubisoft contacted PC Gamer to deliver the following statement: 

"Today, the AMF announced a decision against five of our team members in Canada and France, whom the AMF charges with having sold Ubisoft shares while in possession of privileged information related to the probability of postponing one of Ubisoft’s games. 

"Ubisoft acknowledges the AMF’s decision, but continues to assert that the people involved acted in good faith. We are convinced that these team members did not intentionally commit any acts contrary to market regulations. 

"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."

Ubisoft informs PC Gamer that employees Christine Burgess, Yannis Mallat, Olivier Paris and Francis Baillet "intend to appeal the decision of the AMF Sanctions Committee". The publisher also provided a statement from Mallat himself: 

“We remain convinced that the whole process is unjustified, unfounded and illegal. Moreover, the Commission notes that the hearings conducted in Quebec are null and void. We will therefore continue to defend our good faith and our rights before the Court of Appeal in France, and also via the lawsuit in Quebec brought against the AMF France and the AMF Quebec.” 

Original story: 

The French stock market regulator, Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), has accused several Ubisoft executives of selling stock by virtue of inside knowledge. The publisher has denied the claims. 

As reported by Kotaku, the AMF claims five Ubisoft employees sold stocks in the lead up to October 15, 2013—the day on which both The Crew and the original Watch Dogs were pushed back into 2014. 

As a result of the delays the company's stock dropped 25 percent, says Kotaku, with the AMF alleging the five staff members arraigned—said to include Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat—were aware of the delays prior to offloading their shares. With Ubisoft's headquarters based in Paris, these actions might be in breach of French insider trading laws.

Ubisoft denies the claims—Mallat specifically in this interview with LaPresse.CA—and sent the following lengthy statement to Kotaku: 

"Ubisoft is aware that an action being brought by the French Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) involves five of our team members. Those individuals vigorously dispute their implication in this matter and the AMF’s interpretation of the facts. Yves Guillemot, Co-Founder and CEO of Ubisoft, does not question the good faith of the people involved and has reassured them that they have his full support and trust.

"These proceedings revolve around Ubisoft’s temporary stock market drop in the fall of 2013, after it was announced that Watch Dogs and The Crew would be delayed. The French AMF is alleging that before the announcement the team members in question may have sold securities while being in possession of insider information. The proceedings will continue in November at the Commission des Sanctions (sanctions board) in Paris.

"Ubisoft itself has not been charged by the AMF. Moreover, three of the Canadian team members implicated in the AMF’s action today filed a motion with the Superior Court of Québec demanding that the procedure be declared invalid and seeking damages against AMF France and AMF Québec."

We've reached out to Ubisoft for further comment, and will update as and when we hear back.