In the course of our coverage of the Activision-Blizzard sexual harassment and discrimination scandal and the ensuing legal battle, we’ve noted that multiple state and federal agencies have been attempting to get a piece of the Activision-Blizzard pie – to the point that they’re now fighting among themselves. The agency behind the original suit, the Californa Department of Fair Employment and Housing, objected to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s plan to settle with Blizzard for the relatively low sum of $18M dedicated to a compensation fund.
Then, earlier this month, the EEOC filed its opposition to that objection, claiming ethics violations on the part of the DFEH, as apparently two of the lawyers working for the DFEH had originally been part of the EEOC’s federal case and should have been barred from working on equivalent cases elsewhere under the California Rules of Professional Conduct. As we argued, it was difficult to see which victims were actually being helped by this particular squabble, as it seemed the only victor would be Activision-Blizzard.
And we were right, as now Activision-Blizzard has filed its own request to effectively pause the proceedings in the DFEH case in order for its attorneys to investigate the EEOC’s claim of ethics violations. Activision-Blizzard had also joined the DFEH in its request to move venues to a court better able to handle the “complex” situation, but then it took the opportunity to accuse the DFEH of destroying evidence, which is exactly what the DFEH has been maintaining about Blizzard.
So as Activision-Blizzard deflects and demurs, are things getting any better inside the company itself? Well, Activision would like you to think so, as it sent Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend to sit for an interview with the Financial Times. Townsend claims that the company as thus far fired 20 people for misconduct and another 20 more face discipline, which stacks up with public reporting and also seems odd coming from the same executive who initially denounced the accusations as meritless and was chased off Twitter for chastising whistleblowers.
Her discussion with FT is quite different, however. “It doesn’t matter what your rank is, what your job is,” he says. “If you’ve committed some sort of misconduct or you’re a leader who has tolerated a culture that is not consistent with our values, we’re going to take action.” We assume this policy does not apply to CEO Bobby Kotick himself, as he himself has been party to a sexual harassment lawsuit in the past.
To date, Activision-Blizzard has neither acknowledged nor addressed its workers’ specific demands to improve the company; instead, it contracted a known union-busting firm. In addition to the California lawsuit and EEOC settlement, Blizzard is still subject to a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit and the SEC investigation.
The whole saga: