Tech

Activision CEO reportedly knew about allegations of sexual misconduct for years



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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has reportedly known for years about allegations of sexual misconduct at the video game giant. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick failed to inform the company’s board of directors of “everything he knew” about some incidents, including a 2018 settlement with a former employee at one of Activision’s studios who was allegedly raped by a supervisor. 

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said the report presents a misleading view of the company and its CEO, adding that “instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to [Kotick’s] attention were acted upon.” 

Activision Blizzard — the game publisher behind popular franchises like World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty — has been under scrutiny since this summer when California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the company for its “frat boy” workplace culture, including incidents of alleged discrimination and harassment. In September, the US Equal Employment Opportunity accused the company of violating the civil rights of employees, subjecting them to sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. Activision Blizzard quickly settled with the EEOC for $18 million

Amid the turmoil, Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack stepped down from the company and more than 20 employees were fired following investigations into reports of harassment, discrimination or retaliation in the company. 

In October, Activision Blizzard said it was making changes to improve its workplace culture, including a new “zero tolerance” harassment policy and ending required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Kotick also said he would reduce his pay to $62,500 to ensure “every available resource” was being used to improve the workplace. Earlier in the year, shareholders reportedly approved a $155 million pay package for Kotick. 

The lengthy Journal report, which cites unnamed sources as well as internal company emails and documents, also details harassment accusations against Kotick and other executives at Activision-owned studios. It also shed light on the impending departure of Blizzard Entertainment co-head Jen Oneal, who’s leaving the company just months after taking on the role alongside former Xbox executive Mike Ybarra. In an email sent to Activision’s legal team in September, Oneal said she had been sexually harassed earlier in her career at the game maker and was being paid less than her male co-head, according to the Journal.

Following the report, an Activision Blizzard employee group said in a tweet that Kotick should be replaced as CEO and that they were planning to stage a walkout. 

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Activision Blizzard board of directors said they remain confident in Kotick’s leadership

“Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership the company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent,” reads the statement. “The board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”

Kotick also shared a video message with the company’s employees, a transcript of which was released on Activision’s site. Though not directly naming The Wall Street Journal, he said an article Tuesday “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” He reiterated that he’s committed to an inclusive workplace.





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