Former Gearbox Lawyer Accuses Studio And Randy Pitchford Of Financial Malfeasance, Which He Has Denied
Wade Callender, Gearbox's former in-house lawyer, had been with the Borderlands developer since 2011 through most of 2018. After Callender left the company, Gearbox filed suit against the former employee for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. Gearbox alleged that Callender misused his corporate credit card for, among other things, vacations, gun club memberships, and "trying to get six-pack abs." A month later in December, Callender filed his own lawsuit against Gearbox and studio head Randy Pitchford, alleging that several verbal contracts from Gearbox and an associated real estate company were left unfulfilled or unwritten. These lawsuits were reported on today by Kotaku.
The fallout of these suits is that the two public filings contain a laundry list of allegations from both parties. In his suit, Callender alleges that Randy Pitchford took a secret $12 million dollar advance from Take-Two for Borderlands, siphoning the money to himself.
"For example," documents filed with the court begin, "while Randy was denying employee raises predicated on low cash reserves, Randy secretly saddled Gearbox’s employees with the burden of repaying a private, personal $12M ‘bonus’ that Randy Pitchford rerouted from Gearbox’s publisher directly to Randy’s side entity, ‘Pitchford Entertainment Media & Magic.’ Unbeknownst to Gearbox employees, Randy Pitchford arranged to shift the burden of Randy’s long-standing, multi-million dollar ‘bonus’ to the very same employees from whom he hid the arrangement."
Essentially, Callender is saying that money that should have gone to the game from the publisher Take-Two. Pitchford allegedly kept the money for himself and put it in "Pitchford Entertainment Media & Magic," a limited liability company owned by the Gearbox head. According to the suit, Pitchford then purportedly used profits from Gearbox to pay back the advance from Take-Two.
(Warning: This rest of this story unavoidably contains explicit descriptions of a sexual nature. I'll do my best to tone it down, but be warned, the allegations and defenses both go into detail that may offend or disgust readers.)
This sort of allegation in a civil suit is not uncommon. They can often become rife with character attacks to both bolster arguments against the defendant and also obfuscate the totality of the attacks. Callender's lawsuit goes into unexpected areas, though, as it alleges that Pitchford left a USB drive behind at a company event that contained, among various kinds of developer-proprietary information, instances of "underage pornography."
"On information and belief," the filed suit reads, "Randy Pitchford’s USB drive contained much more than the sensitive corporate documents of Gearbox and business partners like Take-Two Interactive, 2K Games, Sega, Microsoft, Sony, etc. Upon information and belief, Randy Pitchford’s USB drive also contained Randy Pitchford’ s personal collection of ‘underage’ pornography."
Callender recalls the USB drive being lost during mediation of another Gearbox lawsuit concerning Sega and the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines. As Pitchford's conduct and behavior were central to that case, says Callender, the USB drive being lost was relevant, prompting Callender to ask staff to retrieve the USB drive and make a copy of it. Callender's suit alleges that Pitchford intervened in this process and had the staff destroy the USB drive before anyone could see what was on it.
While Gearbox has denied the lawsuit, calling it both "meritless" and "absurd," ArsTechnica has discovered a podcast featuring Randy Pitchford recorded and released almost immediately after Callender's suit was filed with the above allegations. Titled The Piff Pod, the magic-themed podcast hosted Pitchford on December 22 in an episode itself titled "Randy Returns." In the podcast, Pitchford tells the story about the missing USB drive, admitting that it contained pornography but none of it was illegal.
Pitchford openly discusses his preference for "camgirl" pornography, in which a performer conducts sex acts for people watching and chatting along. His fandom extends to saving such pornography to a "memory stick," which leads him to explaining the time he lost the stick Medieval Times, the knights-and-horses themed restaurant.
"Some kid, an employee of Medieval Times discovered this memory stick, took it home, and discovered secrets of my company and future games in development, and also discovered the pornography," Pitchford explained. "It was 'barely legal' porn. This girl's handle was 'Only 18.'"
The reason he saved it on the memory stick, Pitchford said, was that the sex acts "Only 18" was performing were so awe-inspiring that he found them to have value as a magic trick, specifically as she faked things anatomically impossible. Pitchford wanted to learn the secret, so he saved it to study it later. In the podcast in question, he goes into explicit detail about the video, which I am not going to reproduce here.
On Twitter, Pitchford offered another defense.
"The attacks made by my former friend and colleague have no basis in reality or law," Pitchford tweeted. "He is simply trying to shake me down for money. We will win, but because lawsuits are pending I can’t comment as much as I’d like. I am shocked by his lies. Thanks for your love and support. As a father, I find crimes against children to be especially repugnant. It is very painful that a former friend and colleague would lie to try to associate me with such vile behavior in his own greedy pursuit of money."