Senior Ubisoft execs quit after abuse allegations

mongeese

Posts: 391   +60
Staff member
A hot potato: Over the past few weeks, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has been engaged in a “rigorous review” following “recent allegations of misconduct and inappropriate behavior.” In a recent company-wide letter, he states that “toxic behaviors are unacceptable” and are “in direct contrast” to his values and Ubisoft’s. As a result, Ubisoft has ended relations with several high-profile employees.

Ubisoft announced yesterday that three senior executives have left their positions. Managing Director of Ubisoft’s Canadian studios Yannis Mallat and Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoët have resigned. Global Head of HR Cécile Cornet has elected to transition into a different role. The news comes only two weeks after Vice Presidents Maxime Béland and Tommy François were placed on disciplinary leave pending an investigation into an alleged pattern of abuse.

Ubisoft games are likely to have a different feel to them in the future. Hascoët was responsible for writing the guidelines for every title the company produced, from Assassin’s Creed to Far Cry. Béland and François worked under him shaping the specifics of individual titles early in the development phase. Mallat was directly in control over the games that have come out of the Toronto studio, including the upcoming Watch Dogs: Legion.

Although Ubisoft has not revealed the specific outcomes of their internal investigation, private inquiries conducted by Kotaku and Libération provide an approximate outline of the culture at Ubisoft.

Current and former employees describe the company as using regular parties featuring surplus alcohol to keep employees engaged, possibly as a technique to distract from poor working conditions. At the parties, drunk executives and junior staff would intermingle. The consequence was a severe break in professionalism that led to a culture of power abuse and misogyny. HR proved consistently unhelpful.

There’s one particularly egregious incident that stands out. In 2014, at a party celebrating the release of Far Cry 4, Béland put his hands around a female employee’s neck as part of a sexual joke. “I didn’t react right away, because I was sort of like, ‘What is happening here?’ and then by the time I realized what was happening he stopped,” she told Kotaku. She met with Béland the next day who apologized. HR, run by Béland’s wife at the time, deemed the apology sufficient and declined to officiate a report.

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BSim500

Posts: 684   +1,405
"Ubisoft games are likely to have a different feel to them in the future. Hascoët was responsible for writing the guidelines for every title the company produced, from Assassin’s Creed to Far Cry."
So his job was basically CTRL-C -> CTRL-V? I'm pretty sure his replacement's pet dog could do that...
 
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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,213   +5,600
The problem with a number of these alleged abuse charges is their one sided nature. The accuser and one or more friends decides they don't like someone so they file the charge and because there is a "witness" the innocent person gets ousted. This started back in the 1990's and at that time the law failed to issue a simple edict that the accuser could/would suffer the same consequences if found to be a false charge. This is not to say there are no abusers out there but there must be fairness and an equal opportunity for the accused to know who is accusing them and to be able to defend themselves. It is a simple matter of fairness for all.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,221   +2,106
The problem with a number of these alleged abuse charges is their one sided nature. The accuser and one or more friends decides they don't like someone so they file the charge and because there is a "witness" the innocent person gets ousted. This started back in the 1990's and at that time the law failed to issue a simple edict that the accuser could/would suffer the same consequences if found to be a false charge. This is not to say there are no abusers out there but there must be fairness and an equal opportunity for the accused to know who is accusing them and to be able to defend themselves. It is a simple matter of fairness for all.
If the accused is in a position of power, and the accuser isn’t (which is the majority of these cases), then the process almost always favours the accused - most get swept under the rug..

And the accuser DOES get punished - not officially - but they either get let go, or never promoted again.

It’s your opinion (and many who share your opinion) that has kept so many of these cases “under wraps” and led to a culture of abuse at so many places.

 

jonny888

Posts: 80   +103
If the accused is in a position of power, and the accuser isn’t (which is the majority of these cases), then the process almost always favours the accused - most get swept under the rug..

And the accuser DOES get punished - not officially - but they either get let go, or never promoted again.

It’s your opinion (and many who share your opinion) that has kept so many of these cases “under wraps” and led to a culture of abuse at so many places.
It's neither correct nor fair to blame people who legitimately want a fair system for the abuses made by those who were smart enough to get away with them. Simply reversing the problem is still a problem. Not to mention the various debates one could have about what does and does not constitute abuse, which so far seems quite ill defined (yes, I know some cases are very clear-cut, but there's definite improvements to be made in defining this area).
 
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Nobina

Posts: 2,556   +2,165
There’s one particularly egregious incident that stands out. In 2014, at a party celebrating the release of Far Cry 4, Béland put his hands around a female employee’s neck as part of a sexual joke. “I didn’t react right away, because I was sort of like, ‘What is happening here?’ and then by the time I realized what was happening he stopped,” she told Kotaku. She met with Béland the next day who apologized.
Why is Ubisoft even organizing parties with alchohol? Nobody wants to hang out with these schmucks more than they have to. Just give people a day off or something...or decent working conditions. I don't like the idea of high level executives hitting on lower level employees because if they get turned down they can mess with them later. That being said, the situation described here is unclear. Someone unknown putting their hand over your neck for a couple of seconds can be pretty awkward but I wouldn't call it abuse. Then it says he apologized, probably because he realized it was weird but it doesn't say whether she accepted the apology or not. In general, if you can't handle human contact don't go to parties, you probably have something wrong with you and you should never leave the house because at this rate in the future it'll be like "16 years ago I dreamt that this person crossed the street where I live and it made me feel unsafe" and the accused gets guillotined.
 

LuckyMenace

Posts: 15   +11
The problem of systemic abuse in a high intensity, highly hierarchical tech company far outweighs the potential for false accusations. This is not an Ubisoft issue. Many gaming companies have shuttered due to abuses such as Telltale Games, Team Bondi, and more. Victims are often silenced due to fear of retaliation because there is no justice or accountability for those in power.

This is just the beginning. More and more stories like this will come out and they wouldn’t be a day too soon.
 
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jonny888

Posts: 80   +103
The problem of systemic abuse in a high intensity, highly hierarchical tech company far outweighs the potential for false accusations. This is not an Ubisoft issue. Many gaming companies have shuttered due to abuses such as Telltale Games, Team Bondi, and more. Victims are often silenced due to fear of retaliation because there is no justice or accountability for those in power.

This is just the beginning. More and more stories like this will come out and they wouldn’t be a day too soon.
For what you've said to be true a lot of assumptions have to be made, and a lot of your points need to be un-picked.
  1. "systemic abuse" - I'm not even sure what you mean by systemic, but certainly evidence that it's not an individual case-by-case basis is required.
  2. "highly hierarchical tech company" - All companies are hierarchical. All (successful) societies are hierarchical. The type of company makes no difference. We need hierarchies for our societies to function.
  3. "far outweighs the potential for false accusations" - I disagree. Living in a 'guilty-until-innocent' culture has severely negative implications for everyone at all levels.
  4. "victims are often silenced" - I'm sorry but that just isn't possible in this day and age. HR, media outlets, social media, youtube, blogs, local authorities, helplines. There are more places that ever before which people can turn to if they feel they are the subject of abusive behaviour. That's not to say victims may choose silence out of fear of reprisal, and that is a valid concern. But there's no 'silence the oppressed' button that people can press to have their wicked way.
  5. "there is no justice or accountability for those in power" - That's a rather broad statement, but if we confine it to the workplace, that's also clearly untrue. But like all justice, it should be based on verifiable evidence. "He did it" is not evidence. "She made me" is not evidence. Accusation does not equal guilt, and our legal and and moral systems should not be based on that ideal.
 
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McMurdeR

Posts: 183   +142
For what you've said to be true a lot of assumptions have to be made, and a lot of your points need to be un-picked.
  1. "systemic abuse" - I'm not even sure what you mean by systemic, but certainly evidence that it's not an individual case-by-case basis is required.
  2. "highly hierarchical tech company" - All companies are hierarchical. All (successful) societies are hierarchical. The type of company makes no difference. We need hierarchies for our societies to function.
  3. "far outweighs the potential for false accusations" - I disagree. Living in a 'guilty-until-innocent' culture has severely negative implications for everyone at all levels.
  4. "victims are often silenced" - I'm sorry but that just isn't possible in this day and age. HR, media outlets, social media, youtube, blogs, local authorities, helplines. There are more places that ever before which people can turn to if they feel they are the subject of abusive behaviour. That's not to say victims may choose silence out of fear of reprisal, and that is a valid concern. But there's no 'silence the oppressed' button that people can press to have their wicked way.
  5. "there is no justice or accountability for those in power" - That's a rather broad statement, but if we confine it to the workplace, that's also clearly untrue. But like all justice, it should be based on verifiable evidence. "He did it" is not evidence. "She made me" is not evidence. Accusation does not equal guilt, and our legal and and moral systems should not be based on that ideal.
Complaints of inappropriate behaviour between senior and junior enployees can get very messy indeed. It can be traumatic for the employees directly involved, and consume a huge amount of HR and senior level time and resources. Aside from the person injuries it can cause, it can seriously harm the reputation of a company. In short, it's a problem that nobody, nobody wants, but - and I say this as someone who has spent a few years working with HR teams - unfortunately it does happen, to the point where most modern corporations' HR and Legal functions should be well resourced to handle. Frankly it can be staggering how stupid people can be - especially people who have a lot to lose.

And this is precisely why companies need to demand, and should expect to receive, nothing short of impeccable behaviour from their execs. They're paid enough for it. That means limits to socialising with junior employees - especially around alcohol. It means absolutely no physical contact whatsoever. All that should be stipulated in a formal code of conduct. Any Exec or other employees who can't get on board should expect to walk.
 

LuckyMenace

Posts: 15   +11
For what you've said to be true a lot of assumptions have to be made, and a lot of your points need to be un-picked.
  1. "systemic abuse" - I'm not even sure what you mean by systemic, but certainly evidence that it's not an individual case-by-case basis is required.
  2. "highly hierarchical tech company" - All companies are hierarchical. All (successful) societies are hierarchical. The type of company makes no difference. We need hierarchies for our societies to function.
  3. "far outweighs the potential for false accusations" - I disagree. Living in a 'guilty-until-innocent' culture has severely negative implications for everyone at all levels.
  4. "victims are often silenced" - I'm sorry but that just isn't possible in this day and age. HR, media outlets, social media, youtube, blogs, local authorities, helplines. There are more places that ever before which people can turn to if they feel they are the subject of abusive behaviour. That's not to say victims may choose silence out of fear of reprisal, and that is a valid concern. But there's no 'silence the oppressed' button that people can press to have their wicked way.
  5. "there is no justice or accountability for those in power" - That's a rather broad statement, but if we confine it to the workplace, that's also clearly untrue. But like all justice, it should be based on verifiable evidence. "He did it" is not evidence. "She made me" is not evidence. Accusation does not equal guilt, and our legal and and moral systems should not be based on that ideal.
A company acting like it’s own judge, jury, and executioner means those in power will always have leverage over junior level employees. There is no reason to defend the victim and that’s why the problem is so systemic. You can’t get evidence to prove the guilty if the guilty party have every power to bury the evidence, especially in the case of bad behavior. Talk to a victim once in your life and you’ll see why your statements are so hurtful and apathetic.
 
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jonny888

Posts: 80   +103
A company acting like it’s own judge, jury, and executioner means those in power will always have leverage over junior level employees. There is no reason to defend the victim and that’s why the problem is so systemic. You can’t get evidence to prove the guilty if the guilty party have every power to bury the evidence, especially in the case of bad behavior. Talk to a victim once in your life and you’ll see why your statements are so hurtful and apathetic.
There's nothing apathetic about it. Inter-office relationships/interactions are clearly a problem we haven't fully solved, and some people struggle (wilfully or otherwise) to maintain positions of professional power in a responsible and ethical manner. I absolutely agree that these people should not be able to continue as they are. But there are much better ways to deal with it other than "assume everyone accused is automatically guilty and fire them asap". There's a reason we look back at witch hunting as a bad thing.

@McMurdeR seems to echo something I was getting at earlier when they talk about setting reasonable codes of conduct. Of course the next question is "What's reasonable in all situations?", and it still requires at least basic levels of proof when that conduct is alleged to be broken (witnesses, multiple-reports from different people, emails, texts, etc). It's not perfect, but it's a good place to work from.
 
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LuckyMenace

Posts: 15   +11
There's nothing apathetic about it. Inter-office relationships/interactions are clearly a problem we haven't fully solved, and some people struggle (wilfully or otherwise) to maintain positions of professional power in a responsible and ethical manner. I absolutely agree that these people should not be able to continue as they are. But there are much better ways to deal with it other than "assume everyone accused is automatically guilty and fire them asap". There's a reason we look back at witch hunting as a bad thing.
For decades it was automatic:
“The victim is lying”
“The victim asked for it”
“The victim has an agenda”

No one is getting automatically fired. The people who got fired already had a backlog of accusations dating back years or decades, as it was in the case of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Epstein and a number of high profile cases. No one gets fired when there is no record, as it was in many cases in my company. You can’t believe what kind of scumbags still works at my company. Pulling teeth would’ve been easier.
 
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jonny888

Posts: 80   +103
For decades it was automatic:
“The victim is lying”
“The victim asked for it”
“The victim has an agenda”

No one is getting automatically fired. The people who got fired already had a backlog of accusations dating back years or decades, as it was in the case of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Epstein and a number of high profile cases. No one gets fired when there is no record, as it was in many cases in my company. You can’t believe what kind of scumbags still works at my company. Pulling teeth would’ve been easier.
I completely agree with you that automatic 'nothing happened' is just as bad as automatic guilt. But people have been fired/asked to resign in cases where a company felt it was easier to cut their losses rather than pursue a course of action that could lead to more negative spotlight. Which is why we need proper investigations and evidence. Not only to protect the innocent, but to uncover the guilty, unequivocally. The Ubisoft case does seem fairly clear cut in that regard, and hopefully those still working there will be all the better for it. We just have to remain vigilant in making sure we do enough, without going too far.
 
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Nobodysfool

Posts: 57   +57
Wait, these alleged instances of abuse had been going on in the company for several years and this is only getting reported now, in 2020? How come? Is it the culture of shame preventing victims from reporting abuse, or is it self-righteous Political Correctness?
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,556   +2,165
For decades it was automatic:
“The victim is lying”
“The victim asked for it”
“The victim has an agenda”

No one is getting automatically fired. The people who got fired already had a backlog of accusations dating back years or decades, as it was in the case of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Epstein and a number of high profile cases. No one gets fired when there is no record, as it was in many cases in my company. You can’t believe what kind of scumbags still works at my company. Pulling teeth would’ve been easier.
What do you suppose we do when there's no evidence?
 

jonny888

Posts: 80   +103
What do you suppose we do when there's no evidence?
Similar to what we do in courts of law when there's no evidence of a crime. Nothing. At least in terms of direct punitive action. Noting the report is obviously important, and if subsequent reports are made in the future by other people, they can help to form a meaningful body of evidence in-and-of themselves that something might be going on.

As for legitimate actions I can think of off the top of my head: Limit the future interaction required between the persons involved (if possible). Send them both/all on a training course regarding office policies. Send an office wide message reminding people that improper behaviour isn't acceptable or tolerated. Make the (potential) victim aware that they are not being ignored and that the company will always do what it can to protect people from (potential) abusers.