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Ex-Gearbox lawyer accuses CEO Pitchford of secret $12M bonus

Claims and counter-claims are made, including allegations about secret bonuses and camgirl porn as a former lawyer makes startling accusations.

Gearbox and CEO Randy Pitchford are embroiled in an ugly legal dispute with a former employee that has seen all parties making wild and serious allegations against one another.

Former legal counsel Wade Callender, a lifelong friend to Pitchford (until recently by the looks of things), has accused the company CEO of taking a secret $12 million USD bonus against future Borderlands profits, as well as making claims about Pitchford siphoning off company funds for personal use and - perhaps more damagingly - his alleged consumption of underage pornography. He also says that the studio has cut him out and denied him access to his interests in the company. Gearbox and Pitchford have denied these claims and describe the situation as a "shakedown".

Callender's allegations came a month after Gearbox filed a legal claim against him that accused the studio's former lawyer of taking loans out against the company to fund the purchase of a property and tuition and then failing to repay them, as well as abusing a company credit card. The studio is claiming more than $1 million in damages.

Callender's counter-claims are more varied and, in some cases at least, more salacious, ranging from breaking contracts with regards to his employment at the company, through to suggestions that the CEO agreed a $12 million bonus with Take-Two against future Borderlands profits (which would apparently mean staff would have to wait for Pitchford's bonus to be paid before they received their own royalty bonuses).

The company's former lawyer also accused his old friend of leaving a USB drive at a restaurant, and that hard drive apparently included company secrets and a file including pornographic content featuring a young camgirl. It was also suggested that Pitchford had organised parties where adult men had exposed themselves to minors, although Gearbox says that these parties never existed and suggests that while Pitchford and his wife host a variety show, nothing untoward took place there.

Shortly before Callender's claims were made, Pitchford told the story of the camgirl and the USB stick on a magic-related podcast (you can listen here, via Ars Technica). During the interview, Pitchford talks at length about his tastes in porn, as well as suggesting that the reason it was on his USB stick was that he wanted to work out a trick performed during the broadcast.

Shortly after this story broke the studio released the following statement to Kotaku:

"Gearbox will be filing a grievance with the State Bar of Texas against our former general counsel Wade for disciplinary proceedings for filing a lawsuit that includes accusations that he knows to be untrue. The lawyer's rules of professional conduct expressly prohibit the filing of documents that are knowingly false. The tell is within Wade'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. Wade is engaged in a shakedown and he's clearly using deceit and lies to try to cause damage by promoting a narrative that he knows is false."