How EA's legal team keeps one eye on former employees
EA's passive aggressive counsel reminds ex-staff not to leak trade secrets when moving on to new jobs
Correspondence from Electronic Arts to an ex-employee has revealed how the publisher attempts to enforce confidentiality agreements and maintain control over company secrets long after staff have left the company.
A legal note to Ben Cousins, previously general manager of EA's Easy Studio, highlights how the publisher had "serious concern" about leaking company secrets and other confidential information - including the salaries of Electronic Arts' employees - when Cousins began to set up a Swedish studio for mobile publisher ngmoco.
"We understand that you recently accepted the employment as General Manger of ngmoco Sweden," states the correspondence. "EA is seriously concerned about the possible solicitation of its employees and the possible misuse of protected intellectual property and trade secret information by you and ngmoco in violation of your continuing obligations to EA, and we want to both remind you of your obligations to respect EA's confidential and proprietary information, as well as EA's relationship with its current employees, and inform you that we will take action if we discover past or future breaches of you obligations."
Electronic Arts was no doubt watching the new Swedish studio grow last year with great interest and the letter itself anticipates that a number of employees would jump ship and join Cousins at ngmoco.
EA listed a number of non-solicitation obligations that it insisted Cousins "cannot do" for six months after leaving the company.
- Speak to any EA employee (including contacting directly or indirectly as well as having discussions with any EA employee who contacts you) about employment opportunities at ngmoco.
- Interview any EA employee for a position as ngmoco.
- Provide any information, directly or indirectly, to anyone at ngmoco or outside agents of ngmoco (e.g. recruiters) relating to any EA employees - no names, compensation information, performance information.
- Use any EA information in order to draft job descriptions, recruiting materials, or set compensation for jobs being created in your new ngmoco studio."
The letter added: "Since, as we understand it, you are the only existing employee of the new ngmoco studio, it is EA's position that the above limitations effectively prevent you from hiring EA employees to initially populate your ngmoco studio."
Having left EA in March 2011 and joined ngmoco in June, it wasn't until September that the second hire at the company was revealed - Senta Jakobson, former chief operating officer of EA DICE as well as senior development director at Crytek. Over the coming months ngmoco Sweden continued to sign up new staff, including veterans of EA's Battlefield studio.
The letter, sent July 1, 2011, was also sent to the founder of ngmoco, Neil Young, who left Electronic Arts in 2008 after eleven years. He sold ngmoco to DeNA in 2010 for more than $400 million.
Ben Cousins declined to comment further on the legal letter today, which at the time of press remains available online. But he did joke on Twitter that "The irony of course is that what EA covets as 'trade secrets', is actually 'crappy old-fashioned design' by DeNA standards :)"
The full letter is also reprinted below.