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

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:

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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