This one’s a doosey. Sit down, and stay awhile.
Kotaku first reported this morning on a brewing legal confrontation between Stardock CEO Brad Wardell and former marketing manager Alexandra Miseta. She left Stardock three weeks before the disastrous Elemental shipped, a game Wardell later fell on his sword for, placing the largest blame for its many faults on himself.
She left and eventually filed sexual harassment charges.
It’s been more than two years since Elemental shipped, and the legal details are just now coming to light.
In her lawsuit, Miseta outlined a history of behavior by Wardell, culminating at a May 2010 dinner where Wardell reportedly touched her hair. Miseta sent an email to Wardell the next day with bullet points, outlining about what made her uncomfortable. She asked Wardell to “never touch my hair or any of my body parts; not even jokingly” and “do not talk about my private life or about my boyfriend/future husband in any terms especially negative terms.”
“With the above few behavioral changes,” she said, “I'm hoping our previously friendly and professional relationship can be reestablished.”
Wardell quickly responded.
"Thank you for bringing these up to me as I certainly do not want you to feel uncomfortable at work,” he said.
Wardell had problems with several of the points, and then gave Miseta an ultimatum about his behavior.
“I'm not some manager or coworker of yours,” he said. “I own the company. It, and your job there, exist to suit my purposes, not vice versa. The company is not an end unto itself, it is a means to an end which is to further the objectives of its shareholders (in this case, me).”
When Stardock was unable to dismiss Miseta’s harassment suit, which goes to trial at an unspecified date, the company filed its own lawsuit against Miseta, alleging she "deleted, destroyed, and/or stole” marketing materials related to Elemental. Stardock is seeking more than $1 million in damages.
There are many, many more details in Kotaku’s story, including a link to the lengthy filing papers.
What’s interesting is how Wardell has chosen to publicly responded. Rather than sticking by a carefully worded response, and, then, asking for patience at the case works through the legal system, Wardell has been unusually frank with critics on the Quarter to Three boards. You read that right.
Before that happened, though, Stardock released a lengthy statement to Joystiq today:
“It is unfortunate that feelings were hurt during this after-hours, non-work-related public dinner where several people were in attendance. This is a frivolous case against Brad Wardell that will be litigated in a court of law. That she would choose to try to fight this in the court of public opinion versus the court of law only further demonstrates the frivolity of her case.
However, there is no excuse for her malicious behavior when she quit without notice and used her privileged access to destroy valuable company intellectual property which contributed to the loss of millions of dollars and affected the livelihoods of Stardock employees. It is without question that Alexandra Miseta's intent to harm the company included her actions of stealing company property, destroying company material and rendering remaining materials unusable.
This behavior is unacceptable, against the law and should not be condoned. A court case is actively being pursued in a federal court by Stardock Corporation.
Alexandra Miseta has been aware of the pending charges against her for the past two years. The claims against her were filed almost two years ago. They have recently been moved to federal court due to Stardock's discovery of a federal statute which directly addresses her unlawful actions. To suggest Stardock Corporation's actions are retaliatory to her personal case against Brad Wardell is absurd.
- Stardock Corporation”
And here’s where Wardell begins wading into the Quarter to Three forums. Scroll down a bit. He outlines some more details about the original incident in question, which prompted Miseta’s email:
“Ok, I'm going to respond here since I'm being directly accused of something.
The incident that started this happened back in 2010. Myself, Alexandra, and a few others were at a pub while waiting to go to the Qt3 dinner that Lloyd case had set up.
While there, Alexandra got teased and got mad. At the time, i didn't realize she was so upset about it. So we went to the Qt3 get together (that some here may have even been at) and that.
She later emailed me telling me she was mad about the incident - to which I apologized for hurting her feeligs but also insisted that I watch what jokes I tell around the office. (To understand the context, we're a relaxed software company, lots of Family guy jokes, Simpsons references, Robot Chicken references, etc.). To which I responded, admittedly, very very harshly to.
Now, you can argue that I was a jerk in how I responded to her. But it does not justify her getting pissed off, quitting without notice and using her network access to wipe out our marketing assets 3 weeks before the ship of the game forcing me and a few other key team members to scramble at the last second to deal with it.
In addition, I would ask those who are so quick to condemn me personally to ask themselves this - what impact do you think it would have on your team if a key person quit, wiped out a bunch of stuff and made a bunch of legal theats? Think of the effect it would have around the office.
NO one has suggested that if she hadn't done this that Elemental would have been a great game. But there is a huge gulf between having a "great game" and a "total disaster". The ultimate blame for the game's failure lies with me for reasons I've stated countless times. But that doesn't excuse someone from maliciously and intentionally wiping out years worth of marketing data, assets, etc.
And the charge that this is "retaliatory" is ridiculous and, frankly, offensive to not just me but virtually everyone here at Stardock - who I can assure you are at least as pissed off as I was about what she did.
The only thing that has recently changed is that our case against her got moved to federal court and that we have continued our position of not settling her frivolous case.”
Wardell is continuing to contribute to the thread, which is an interesting legal tactic. I’ll be watching.