Activision-Blizzard is now being investigated by four state and federal regulators as its top legal VP departs

    
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Oh my.

Yesterday, we covered the news that the US Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating Activision-Blizzard in the wake of its ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit and associated scandal. As we noted, the feds have subpoenaed Activision along with executives including Bobby Kotick, seeking everything from personnel files and board meeting minutes to termination documents and Kotick’s communications relating to employee complaints.

Activision confirmed the investigation and said it’s “cooperating with the SEC,” but as of this morning, the company has issued a broader public statement that characterizes the legal situation as Activision-Blizzard “continu[ing] to work with regulators on addressing and resolving workplace complaints it has received.” The statement not only confirms that the SEC has pointed a microscope at the company but admits both the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are probing the corporation for wrongdoing.

“Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said, ‘We are deeply committed to making Activision Blizzard one of the best, most inclusive places to work anywhere. There is absolutely no place anywhere in our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind. While we continue to work in good faith with regulators to address and resolve past workplace issues, we also continue to move ahead with our own initiatives to ensure that we are the very best place to work. We remain committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner.’

“Kotick also said that the Company continues to productively engage with regulators, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) with the goal of improving its workplace policies and procedures and ensuring compliance.

“The Company is actively engaged in continued discussions with the EEOC and has cooperated with the EEOC’s investigation concerning certain employment practices. It also confirmed that it is complying with a recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoena issued to the Company and several current and former employees and executives regarding disclosures on employment matters and related issues. The Company is confident in its prior disclosures and is cooperating with the SEC’s investigation.”

Readers will note that the cooperative tone of recent press releases has been markedly different from the initial defiance of the company, which denied complaints and blasted investigators. Since the first lawsuit was filed, of course, multiple staffers and execs have been forced out, sponsors have abandoned the company, and the California DFEH accused the company of interfering with witnesses and shredding evidence relating to the lawsuit. We have also noted the rising labor movement within the company, which Activision-Blizzard has thus far ignored but for contracting a union-busting firm.

Indeed, the proto-union group of Activision-Blizzard workers, dubbed A Better ABK, is responsible for filing the lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board last week. Labor organizers had originally made four demands of the company: an end to mandatory arbitration clauses; employee input on recruiting, hiring, and promotion policies; transparent compensation; and a third-party audit of everything from reporting and HR to the C-suite itself. To date, Activision-Blizzard has not addressed any of these demands, rendering its public statements about the company’s “important improvements” and its being “committed to addressing all workplace issues in a forthright and prompt manner” more than a little disingenuous, particularly when coupled with ongoing claims of union busting, retaliation, and intimidation.

In other Activision-Blizzard news, Blizzard lost its chief legal officer at the end of last week. Senior VP and Chief Legal Officer Claire Hart, who’d left a decade-long role at Google to head up Blizzard’s legal division back in 2018, announced on Linkedin that she’d left the company and will be “taking a short break before making [her] next move.”

The whole saga just keeps compounding:

Update
Hart isn’t the only person leaving this week: Bloomberg is reporting that Overwatch Executive Producer Chacko Sonny announced his departure; the publication cites unnamed Blizzard sources who say he was “perceived as a stabilizing force on the Overwatch team following the departure of director Jeff Kaplan earlier this year.” A replacement has not been named. (Thanks, Fisty!)
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John Artemus
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John Artemus

Every day there seems to be a new investigation by someone. The hell’s going on over there lol.

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Ken from Chicago

Whoa! For a moment I misread that as FOUR state investigators and a fed investigator (SEC) was investigating Acti-Blizz but it’s actually a combined four investigators: 1 state investigator from California (DFEH) and 3 fed investigators (EEOC, NLRB and SEC).

So, that’s … nope, that’s still messed up. Sure, you’re not getting called to court in three other states and whatever local state laws they have, not to mention all the time and money spent on air travel, but having three federal agencies all up in your business?!! That’s a nightmare to have three potential ways of breaking federal laws and committing felonies if you don’t respond properly to each. YIKES! 😱😱😱

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SmiteDoctor

Well let’s just hope the company doesn’t get shuttered before I can buy Diablo 2 the next time I get paid lol.

I wonder who’s going to pile on to the investigation festival next, its beginning to look like Woodstock with Bureaucracies instead of Bands.

Turing fail
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Turing fail

I’d burn a monkey paw wish to get Bobby et al waterboarded for the deposition phase- Frannie T. is cool with it not being “torture”…

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Ashfyn Ninegold

A sword cuts both ways.

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Ken from Chicago

Lost their VP of Legal? Woopsie.

And the hits just keep on a’coming.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Blah, blah blah.

You know that’s what they really said.

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MrReaper

I heard from my 3rd cousins, 2nd wife, uncles sister, on the 4th husband’s side that the government wants full control over WOW so they can secretly insert GPS devices into all the characters. Wow will have cctv cameras everywhere and they will watch all your cosmetic pets.

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MolleaFauss

Feels like someone has caught a long time griefer and it’s calling for a good session of spawncamping in retaliation…

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Greaterdivinity

SEC just piling on with what is likely a fairly easy target to get a few million dollar fine out of that’s already in the spotlight.

I wish they’d more aggressively go after bad actors that actually matter more. I guess this one counts but like, it just feels like they’re doing their semi-annual reminder to companies that, “We’re here and we can take action, we swear!” act.

But hey, I won’t cry none for ATVI as a whole, nor if it keeps any C-level executives up at night. I just hate that the misbehavior of management and the dishonesty C-suite could lead to regular folks getting cut : (

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Ashfyn Ninegold

If they were earnest, the first thing they would have done was to replace all the Board members. They didn’t. So they’re not.

And yes, SEC sees chance to make millions and remind all the corporate scofflaws they exist.

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Kanbe

And now who I’m their right mind would want to take that opening in legal.