The day before Funcom’s latest MMORPG, The Secret World, launched, their CEO stepped down. At the time, many people took it as a sign that the MMO was going to struggle, but few saw it as something illegal.
Today (opens in new tab) however, the ex-CEO Trond Aas is being investigated for potentially violating insider trading laws. At the crux of the issue is that fact that Aas stepped down from CEO into a position as a stategic advisor, which allowed him to sell off his 1.5 million Funcom shares while they were still highly valued. He ended up selling 650,000 of those, which would have been worth millions of dollars at the time they were sold.
Today, the shares are of much lower value (roughly 15% of what they used to be) and Aas is essentially charged with being the Captain of a ship who realized it was sinking, but chose to sail away on a lifeboat quietly rather than alert passengers. These remain just allegations though, as there has been no formal charges or verdict.
Funcom maintains that the timing of Aas’ departure was merely because he wanted to stay on as CEO until the game launched. “Trond is staying with the company in a different role, so it’s not like anyone was fired or demoted. It has absolutely nothing to do with The Secret World, although Trond was an active participant in all discussions regarding the game before launch and played an instrumental role in ensuring that we shipped a great game on time.”