Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford is involved in a seriously messy lawsuit filed by a former Gearbox employee. Gearbox's former general counsel, Wade Callender, alleges that Pitchford took a secret $12 million bonus in 2016, among other more severe claims.
Gearbox is the studio that brought the gaming world the Borderlands series and the failed Battleborn, and if the developer wasn't down on its luck enough already, this latest legal trouble involving CEO Randy Pitchford will likely be doing it no favors. The lawsuit comes only a month after Gearbox filed a suit of its own against Wade Callender, who worked as the head of Gearbox's legal team for almost a decade until his departure in 2018. In November 2018, Gearbox claimed Callender to be guilty of breaching his fiduciary duties and defrauding the company, alleging he misused Gearbox funds for his own personal purposes and failed to repay a loan he took out through the company.
While none of that sounds particularly great for Callender, his own lawsuit against Pitchford and Gearbox is an entirely different beast in terms of its claims, according to Kotaku. Filed in December 2018, Callender asserts that Pitchford worked with Borderlands publisher 2K Games to procure for himself a "personal, secretive ‘Executive Bonus’ 0f $12,000,000," declaring the money to have been covertly funneled through Pitchford's magician-centric business Pitchford Entertainment, Media & Magic, LLC. Referring to this alleged breach of fiduciary duty as "exploitation" of Gearbox's employees at the time, as "these millions are being syphoned to Randy Pitchford’s personal accounts instead of funding the development of Borderlands," Callender's lawsuit insists that it "is just the tip of the Pitchford iceberg." Regarding a 2014 incident in which Pitchford left a USB drive behind at a Dallas, Texas restauarant, the lawsuit reads: "Upon information and belief, Randy Pitchford’s USB drive also contained Randy Pitchford’s personal collection of ‘underage’ pornography."
In response to these assertions - and it is imperative to bear in mind that the contents of Callender's lawsuit amount only to unproven assertions at this point in time - Gearbox told Kotaku that "[the] allegations made by a disgruntled former employee are absurd, with no basis in reality or law," and in a later statement referred to Callender's lawsuit to be based on "deceit and lies to try to cause damage by promoting a narrative that [Callender] knows is false." Gearbox justified its comment, stating:
"The tell is within [Callender's] claim itself – his use of hedged lawyer language and clever application of quotation marks betray that he knows that the impression he is trying to create is based in lies. We imagine that he used the quotation marks and lawyer language in hopes that will give him some angles of defense when we inevitably take action against him for false statements."
Truly, the involved parties have locked themselves into an increasingly sordid legal battle, and it's entirely possible that Wade Callender, Randy Pitchford, and Gearbox Software may remain embroiled in this litigious struggle for some time. While neither set of claims look exactly flattering on those they accuse, the allegations leveled at Pitchford are particularly damaging in the public eye. Regardless of whether or not Callender's accusations are determined to be of substance in a court of law, this situation is nothing short of a PR disaster for Gearbox at a critical time in which the developer is struggling to simply keep its head above water.