reader comments 28
Share this story
On Tuesday, Zynga sued two of its former employees.
The company claims they stole confidential information and took it to their new employer, rival social gaming startup, Scopely.
Massimo Maietti and Ehud Barlach worked as higher-up employees for the San Francisco-based Zynga until they left in July and September, respectively.
Scopely, which makes Dice with Buddies, Wheel of Fortune Free Play, and others, is also named as a co-defendant in the case.
According to Zynga’s 28-page civil complaint, Maietti was the creative director on “one of Zynga’s most ambitious soon-to-be released games, which goes by the code name ‘Project Mars.’” Barlach, for his part, was the general manager of Hit It Rich! Slots.
Neither Scopely, Maietti, nor Barlach immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.
Both men are accused of taking a vast quantity of private data with them and successfully recruited former colleagues to join them at Scopely, which Zynga claimed was a violation of their employment contracts. (Scopely has several Zynga alumni, including Roy Rosenthal, the company’s general counsel. Rosenthal also did not respond to Ars.)
In recent months, as Zynga became increasingly aware that “key talent” was leaving the company, it commissioned a “forensic examination” of former employee’s computers, going back to Maietti.
As Zynga alleges:
On July 4, 2016—during the Independence Day holiday and just one day before he gave notice of his resignation of employment from Zynga–Maietti’s Internet history shows that Maietti used the Google Chrome browser on his Zynga-issued laptop to access a Zynga-owned Google Drive account. His browser history shows that he proceeded to download 10 Google Drive folders that he had permission to access, but only as necessary to perform his duties for Zynga.
The Google Chrome browser “zipped” those ten files and downloaded them to his File Downloads folder. Once downloaded, forensic analysis shows that Maietti copied nine of those folders to a connected external USB device.
The external USB device was disconnected from the computer, and Maietti then placed the .zip files in the Trash, while they remained on the USB device. On July 7, 2016, over 20,000 files and folders were located within the Trash but were subsequently deleted in a failed attempt by Maietti to cover his tracks.
The lawsuit goes on to explain that those zipped files “have identical names to those in Zynga’s Google Drive account” and consist of “extremely sensitive, highly confidential Zynga information,” including “wholesale copying of the Project Mars folder.”
Those documents also allegedly included “hundreds of detailed design specifications,” “unreleased game design documents,” and “financial-related information.”
For his part, while he was still at Zynga, Barlach is accused of engaging in similar data copying and even telling a Scopely recruiter whom to target at Zynga.
In response, Scopely recruiter Christina Dunbar responded to Barlach by text: “Thanks!! I was saving that for your first day! LOL I would be happy to hear about anyone you think I should be trying to speak with. Obviously I know you have that clause about not taking people so I am always careful. :-)”
Scopely ended up hiring Derek Heck, a product manager at Wizard of Oz Slots and Willy Wonka Slots.
The lawsuit also claims that Heck even “deleted more than 24,000 files and folders in the last month of his employment with Zynga, and referenced articles entitled ‘How to erase my hard drive and start over’ and ‘How to Erase a Computer Hard Drive – How To Articles.’”
Zynga settled a similar case filed against a former employee in 2013, but the new case against Scopely seems to be far larger in scale.
Steph Hess, vice president of communications for Zynga, declined to respond to Ars’ questions on the record and simply referred us to the lawsuit itself.