Unfair Dismissal cases dropped
[Update: In comments to Eurogamer, former ZA/UM employees Robert Kurvitz and Sander Taal have brashly disputed the contents of the statements released by ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus.
“The press release quotes Kender admitting that he has filed a ‘misguided’ lawsuit against ZA/UM in late 2022. We disagree,” reads the duo’s response. “Kender’s lawsuit was based on the misuse of ZA/UM’s funds (€4.8m) by the majority shareholders Kompus and Haavel to increase their own stake in the company. In the press release, Kompus and Haavel admit to this misuse, arguing only that the money has been “paid back to ZA/UM”.
“Paying back stolen money, however, does not undo the crime; here, it does not undo the majority that Kompus and Haavel have illegally gained in ZA/UM […] Kompus and Haavel silenced Kender on this matter, but they will not silence us. Unlike Kender, we have not participated in the looting of ZA/UM, and Kompus and Haavel have no power over us.”
Disco Elysium developer Studio ZA/UM has, to various effect, resolved numerous lawsuits filed against it within the past year. These include a case with the game’s executive producer, Kaur Kender, as well as several Unfair Dismissal suits filed by several key members of the studio, who left the team in fall 2022.
The Kaur Kender lawsuit saw the former ZA/UM producer sue the studio’s majority shareholding company Tütreke, claiming that ZA/UM CEO Ilmar Kompus had essentially “cheated” him out of €1 million, while also trying to illegally wrest control of the studio away from the founding members of the team. However, the case will no longer be progressing, as per a statement from Kompus offered to GamesIndustry.biz.
“The facts and the law led to this outcome,” Kompus writes. “We are pleased that Kender and his attorneys have chosen to withdraw their lawsuit — one that should never have been filed in the first place. Their decision affirms there was no basis for their accusations and that I have acted appropriately and responsibly, as underscored by the corporate records I provided.”
A press statement from the studio also includes comments from Kender, who has now “divested all his shares in the studio” and “repaid all his debts to the studio”, as well as reimbursing Kompus’ legal costs.
“After leaving my full-time role, I filed a lawsuit which I realised, after seeing the facts, was misguided.” said Kender in the press statement.
The unfair dismissal suits were filed following the revelation that Disco Elysium designer Robert Kurvitz, writer Helen Hindpere, and art director Aleksander Rostov were no longer at the studio, having been “involuntary” pushed out of the company by its owners. While initially offering a more diplomatic statement, Kompus and business partner Tõnis Haavel would eventually allege that the departing members had been “creating a toxic environment”, and “belittling co-workers”, with the party also accused of “intending to steal the IP”.
Studio ZA/UM now says that Kurvits and Rostov have dropped their respective suits, with the studio claiming a lack of evidence prevented the cases from progressing. The studio notes that it expects further accusations and cases to be brought forward by former employees, and it expects these cases to meet similar fates. In addition, Studio ZA/UM has received a €4.8 million payment from its owner, Tütreke.
“As this transaction shows, open discussions are the best way to clear up misunderstandings and differences, especially when it’s for the benefit of the team,” writes Kompus. “We’ve approached this with the collective interest of ZA/UM and our incredible team in mind, and we are glad to have reached a full resolution.”
ZA/UM resolves legal dispute with Disco Elysium producer Kaur Kender [GamesIndustry.biz]