French stock market regulators accuse multiple Ubisoft executives of insider trading, after selling stock in the weeks leading up to the announcement of a delay to Watch Dogs.
News regarding new video game software and hardware can have a tremendous effect of the stocks of companies, as Nintendo recently found through the highs of Pokemon GO and the lows of the Switch announcement. Perhaps more than anything, the announcement of a delay to a high-profile project is never good news for a game developer or publisher. However, several Ubisoft executives have been accused of using such news to their advantage - in particular with regards to a high-profile delay to Watch Dogs.
The Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), which acts as the French stock market regulator, has made claims against Ubisoft's Yannis Mallat as well as four other Ubisoft executives. The accusations relate to the alleged sale of stock in the weeks leading up to October 15, 2013. This was the date on which Ubisoft announced delays to both Watch Dogs and The Crew, with both titles pushed back into 2014.
The effect on Ubisoft was heavy, with the company's stock dropping significantly. However, the AMF has alleged Mallat and his fellow executives of committing insider trading, by selling securities based on the use of insider information. The accusation is based around the fact that the Ubisoft executives in question used the upcoming delay to gain advantage, based on information that was not made open to the public at the time of sales taking place.
According to Mallat, however, the dates between when the transactions completed and when he was advised of the delay do not match up. Speaking with La Presse, the Ubisoft executive advised that the sales in question went through on the 25 September, yet he was not advised of the delays to Watch Dogs and The Crew until October 11. Whether this holds out under scrutiny, of course, will be found out soon enough.
Ubisoft has also released a statement on the matter. The company advised Kotaku that company co-founder Yves Guillemot "does not question the good faith of the people involved and has reassured them that they have his full support and trust." Meanwhile, the Canadian executives involved in the investigation have filed a motion with the Superior Court of Quebec, requesting that "that the procedure be declared invalid and seeking damages against AMF France and AMF Quebec."
The publisher has plenty on its hands at the moment, of course, with a primary focus of late fixing the multiplayer for Watch Dogs 2 ready for its release today. The news of these insider trading allegations, however, may take off some of the sheen from the launch of such a highly anticipated title, although the publisher will be hoping that it won't overshadow the game's launch entirely. With proceedings continuing in November in Paris, it will be interesting to see how things play out.