As ATVI stock dips and Blizzard employees plan a walkout tomorrow, Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has finally publicly addressed the company’s workers in regard to the ongoing sexism lawsuit and fallout. He says that the company’s initial responses were “tone deaf” and apologizes for the lack of empathy. “The leadership team has heard you loud and clear,” he writes to employees in a press release sent to press and investors.
The letter includes the contact information for an outside law firm that the company has apparently contracted to audit its policies and procedures. Kotick insists that the company will investigate every claim, hire staff and resources to do so, add moderated safe spaces for speaking up, re-evaluate managers and terminate anyone “found to have impeded the integrity of [the company’s] processes for evaluating claims,” and create additional diverse hiring “compliance resources” (we note here that the company has refused to cooperate with diversity proposals in the past). He reiterates the statement made by the WoW-specific team earlier today that inappropriate in-game content will also be removed, though it’s not clear which games and which content he means here.
“We will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world,” he declares. Here is the letter in full.
This has been a difficult and upsetting week.
I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.
Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.
It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.
Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.
We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.
We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.
I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.
We are committed to long-lasting change. Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions:
Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team.
Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement.
Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated.
Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive.
In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.
Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.
You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.
As we’ve been covering, last week California filed a massive sexual discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard following a two-year investigation. Over the last week, we’ve seen a steady stream of leaked memos, press statements, and apologies from both current former Activision-Blizzard leaders, as well as an outraged chorus of workers raising their voices to call out abuses and lies. We’ve even seen at least one executive resignation (out of disgust, not out of guilt). Yesterday, employees began signing on to an open letter condemning the corporate response. As of this evening, it has over 3200 signatures, and the employee walkout is planned for tomorrow. (It does not appear to be flagging one bit.)
Oh yeah, and the quarterly investor call is next week.
Kotick himself is a controversial figure who has presided over Activision-Blizzard’s modern narratives: multiple incidents of mass layoffs in spite of record profits, the Blitzchung incident and boycott, dodgy stock deals, an exodus of veteran developers, multiple labor uprisings and compensation uproar, closed studios, the executive pay scandal, collapsing playerbases, shareholder vote shenanigans, and the diversity measures mess we just mentioned.
It should hopefully go without saying that if you’re involved in the state lawsuit, you should probably not be volunteering information to the defendant’s corporate attorney, particularly when the attorney’s expertise is literally helping private companies navigate “the challenges of government investigations.”