The class action lawsuit against Electronic Arts arising from the botched launch of Battlefield 4 has hit a snag: The judge in the case has ruled that the alleged "false and misleading statements" about the game were not actually fraudulent, but were instead just the sort vague, optimistic noise you'd expect from the upper management of a major game publisher. Despite the ruling, however, it's not a complete victory for EA.
Filed last December, the lawsuit claimed EA executives knew the launch of Battlefield 4 would be a schmozzle but made "materially false and misleading statements" about its many virtues anyway and, based on that, "issued strong fiscal 2014 financial guidance for the Company" in order to entice unsuspecting investors to sink their money into it.
As the Courthouse News reported, however, Judge Susan Illston ruled that at least some of those statements were nothing more than "corporate confidence," and while it may have been misplaced, it does not constitute the foundation for a lawsuit.
"[CFO Blake] Jorgensen's Oct. 29, 2013 statement comparing 'BF4' to a World Series ace pitcher is puffery," she wrote. "Defendant [CEO Andrew] Wilson's Oct. 29, 2013 statement explaining that EA 'worked more closely with Microsoft and Sony throughout the entire process' resulting in a 'launch slate of games that are the best transition games that I've ever seen come out of this company' is an inactionable opinion, as well as a vague statement of corporate optimism."
It's a positive outcome for EA, but it's not necessarily the end of the story. In its defense, EA pointed out that five of the eight statements cited by the lead defendants, Ryan Kelly and Louis Mastro, were actually made after they had purchased stock in the company. The judge agreed that they cannot pursue claims based on those statements, but also said the plaintiffs can be replaced by others who did purchase stock due to alleged "misstatements" made between October 29 and December 3, as long as the purchases were made after those dates. The complainants were given until November 3 to make the substitution.