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Activision's IT boss 'was told to dig up dirt on ex-Infinity Ward bosses'

CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly authorised monitoring of work email accounts and phones

In 2009 Activision's top brass allegedly instructed the company's IT head to "dig up dirt" on then Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella in a bid to "get rid" of the pair.

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Just months before the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision's chief legal officer (now chief public policy officer) George Rose asked ex-IT boss Thomas Fenady to attempt to gain access to West's and Zampella's work email accounts, computers and phones to uncover any devious activities as part of an operation internally called 'Project Icebreaker'.

That's according to legal documents obtained by Giant Bomb ahead of this month's court showdown between more than 40 former Infinity Ward employees and Activision, which claim 'Project Icebreaker' was directly authorised by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick.

Rose is said to have warned Fenady "don't get caught doing it," and to have assured him "Bobby will take care of you. ... Don't worry about repercussions."

During his deposition Rose denied he specifically asked Fenady to "dig up dirt" on West and Zampella, although he did admit to Project Icebreaker's existence. He said the goal had simply been to gain access West's and Zampella's email accounts, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Activision reportedly approached Microsoft and security specialist InGuardians in an attempt to help crack email account passwords but both refused on legal grounds.

IT man Farday also claimed there were discussions about gaining private access to Infinity Ward's studio space in order to image the contents of West's and Zampella's computers by staging a fake fumigation or mock fire drill. "I only know it was discussed. I don't think it was acted upon," he said.

Activision's legal dispute with West and Zampella stretches back to March 2010 when the pair sued the company for unfair dismissal, claiming their contracts were terminated weeks before substantial Modern Warfare 2 royalty payments were due to be made.

Activision counter-sued West and Zampella, arguing that they had been secretly negotiating a deal with EA, and added the Battlefield publisher to its complaint in late 2010. A California Superior Court subsequently ruled that EA must defend itself in a $400 million contract-interference suit, but the publishers settled out of court earlier this week.

The trial kicks off on May 29, so expect plenty more fireworks in the coming weeks.

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