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Ubisoft says AMF claims "unjustified, unfounded and illegal"

UPDATE: Ubisoft has decided to appeal the French AMF's decision to sanction its team members

Update: Ubisoft has now come out to slam the French AMF for accusing its team members of insider trading. "Today, the AMF announced a decision against five of our team members in Canada and France, whom the AMF charges with having sold Ubisoft shares while in possession of privileged information related to the probability of postponing one of Ubisoft's games," the publisher stated. "Ubisoft acknowledges the AMF's decision, but continues to assert that the people involved acted in good faith. We are convinced that these team members did not intentionally commit any acts contrary to market regulations.

"Similarly, given the processes and timetables involved in the production of major games at our company and within our industry in general, we believe that at the time they carried out their transactions these employees could not have been aware of or anticipate the subsequent decision to postpone the game that would be taken by Yves Guillemot on October 11, 2013. Regrettably, the AMF's decision represents a serious misunderstanding of the game development and production process at our company and common to our industry. Each major game requires the involvement of multiple teams across the company, but ultimately only the company's CEO can make an exceptional decision such as changing a game's release date."

Christine Burgess, Yannis Mallat, Olivier Paris and Francis Baillet have indicated that they intend to appeal the decision. Mallat said, “We remain convinced that the whole process is unjustified, unfounded and illegal. Moreover, the Commission notes that the hearings conducted in Quebec are null and void. We will therefore continue to defend our good faith and our rights before the Court of Appeal in France, and also via the lawsuit in Quebec brought against the AMF France and the AMF Quebec.”

Original story from November 15:

A number of Ubisoft executives have been accused of using insider knowledge to sell and profit from their stocks, although the Assassin's Creed publisher has denied this is the case.

The allegations originate from Autorité des marchés financiers, the regulator for France's stock market, according to Kotaku. There are five execs suspected of insider trading, including Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal.

AMF's claims state that all five sold some of their Ubisoft stock in the weeks running up to October 15th, 2013 - the day the publisher announced both the upcoming Watch Dogs and The Crew would be delayed to 2014. Delays often cause publisher stocks to fall; in this case, Ubisoft's dropped by approximately 25 per cent.

The regulator accuses Mallat and his colleagues of selling the stock based on their knowledge of the forthcoming delay, a violation of France's insider trading laws. Mallat has since denied any knowledge of the delay at the time he sold his stocks.

The proceedings of this case will continue in November at Paris' Commission des Sanctions. Three of the accused based in Canada have filed a a motion with Quebec's Supreme Court demanding the procedure be declared invalid. They are also seeking damages against the AMF in both France and Quebec.

Ubisoft released a statement to Kotaku, stressing that the company itself has not been charged by the AMF and that the five execs "vigourously dispute their implication in this matter". The publisher added that co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot will also stand by his staff.

"[He] does not question the good faith of the people involved and has reassured them that they have his full support and trust," the statement reads.

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Latest comments (1)

Anthony Chan2 months ago
I have to say it all sounds fishy. What does this quote even mean: "Regrettably, the AMF's decision represents a serious misunderstanding of the game development and production process at our company and common to our industry."

Working in the investment industry, there are loads upon loads of compliance processes that must be followed regarding the buying and selling of stock. A good process forces us to request approval from our compliance group before we even attempt to buy or sell a name. Names are cross-referenced against restricted lists to make sure there is no Material Non Public Information that our company is involved in.

You would think that Senior Management Members would be subjected to the same rules and levels of compliance. Being a public company, means they are subject to market rules that prevent this serious 'white collar crime' from happening. This isn't about understanding differences and nuances between industries.

The AMF is a watchdog and a necessity to ensure market fairness. Short story is these 5 executives sold shares leading up to an event that affected all holders of Ubisoft shares, meaning they were able to get out with their pants before the share price fell from the sky. Maybe if it was some nameless Joe, I might even believe it (and even then, I would be wondering) ... but the fact it was 5 - not 1, but 5 - executives of the subjected company; that is definitely fishy.
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