Four former investors and executives of Oslo-based gaming company Funcom pleaded guilty to charges of insider trading in Funcom stock when their trial got underway in Oslo last week. The company is best known for creating computer games such as Age of Conan, The Secret World, Anarchy Online and Lego Minifigures.
Three of the men indicted are former company employees, including Trond Arne Aas, who served as Funcom’s chief executive from 2002 to 2012. Also on trial are former Funcom chairman Torleif Ahlsand, former Funcom finance director Bjørn Ottar Toften and Funcom’s former sales and marketing director Morten Schjelle Larssen.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that Aas flatly denied charges of market manipulation, for example, that were filed by Norway’s white collar crime unit Økokrim after raids on Funcom’s offices in 2014. “It’s important for me to say that I can’t understand Økokrim’s description of reality, not at all,” Aas said after the trial started. He’s charged with selling more than 700,000 shares of Funcom in the spring and summer of 2012 based on inside information about development of The Secret World. The shares later dove on reports of poor sales of the game, and the company felt compelled to cut staff.
DN reported that Aas denied The Secret World was a bad game, claiming it had hundreds of thousands of players. “We received a lot of positive feedback about the game,” testified Aas, who also debunked what he believes is Økokrim’s theory that the game was launched before it was finished because the company was about to run out of money. “That’s not right,” said Aas, a physicist who worked for consulting firm McKinsey before he was head-hunted to become Funcom’s chief executive. He also claimed that all investors were encouraged to read up on game testers’ evaluations and that the market “understood the risk” of investing. The trial is due to proceed over the next nine weeks, with a verdict expected in early 2017.