Activision-Blizzard partly meets some worker demands, dramatically cuts Bobby Kotick’s compensation

    
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At 5:15 a.m. EDT this morning, Activision-Blizzard’s PR team dropped a lengthy letter from CEO Bobby Kotick, addressing everything from the ongoing pandemic to the ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination scandal plaguing Blizzard. Yeah, it’s been a year. Kotick essentially reiterates his previously communicated position that the company let down its workers but that he believes progress has been made – and he actually concedes slightly on some of the worker demands.

“The guardrails weren’t in place everywhere to ensure that our values were being upheld. In some cases, people didn’t consistently feel comfortable reporting concerns, or their concerns weren’t always addressed promptly or properly. People were deeply let down and, for that, I am truly sorry,” he says. “We’ve made progress over the last few years fostering that diversity and creating a better work environment – a commitment that has improved in scope and speed in recent months. We’ve tripled our investment in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training; we’ve made meaningful organizational changes; and we’ve substantially increased resources for reporting and carefully investigating improper behavior.”

Kotick then lays out five changes the company will be implementing:

  • A zero-tolerance harassment policy, including termination for “many […] instances of workplace misconduct” and for anyone found to have retaliated against workers for compliance complaints.
  • A commitment to increase the percentage of women and non-binary workers by 50% and an investment of $250M to “accelerate opportunities for diverse talent.” This is a considerably larger sum than the much-criticized $18M originally allotted to victims and charities through the company’s settlement with the EEOC.
  • A waiving of required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Workers had demanded a complete removal of all mandatory arbitration agreements, not just for sexual harassment and discrimination claims.
  • More visibility on pay equity, delivered annually. This is not elaborated on, but Kotick insists that “U.S. analysis showed that women at the company on average earned slightly more than men for comparable work in 2020.” Organizers have asked for complete visibility.
  • Regular progress updates, including quarterly updates on this topic to shareholders.

While some of these measures do touch on worker demands, none meets them fully. The company’s fledgling worker union, A Better ABK, specifically demanded an end to all mandatory arbitration; company-wide approval on new recruiting and promotion policies; a full release of compensation data; and a true third-party audit of report, HR, and the executive staff. Activision-Blizzard has not acknowledged the worker union; instead, it contracted a known union-busting firm, not addressed in this letter.

The money quote, quite literally, comes at the very end of the missive, when Kotick announced he’s taking a massive pay cut, something that might have been more appropriate earlier this year before the lawsuits when Kotick came under fire for his exorbitant pay and bonuses and merely halved them. His pay will now be used as a “resource […] in the service of becoming the industry leader in workplace excellence.”

“I have asked our Board of Directors to reduce my total compensation until the Board has determined that we have achieved the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described above. Specifically, I have asked the Board to reduce my pay to the lowest amount California law will allow for people earning a salary, which this year is $62,500. To be clear, this is a reduction in my overall compensation, not just my salary. I am asking not to receive any bonuses or be granted any equity during this time.”

That move reduces Kotick’s compensation from a 2021 potential of $155M to $62,500.

We note again that the policies, apologies, and efforts here stand in sharp contrast to the initially dismissive tone coming from Activision-Blizzard this past summer, when the studio denied wrongdoing and attacked the accusers, leading to a walkout, boycott, protest, and thousands of its own employees condemning the response. We also note again that Bobby Kotick himself was subject to a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit of his own, making his apologies and promises a bit dubious.

In addition to the investigation from the EEOC, which Kotick praises in this letter (a little bit of shade for the other agencies?), Activision-Blizzard is still facing a lawsuit from the California DFEH, a lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board lawsuit, and the SEC investigation.

Activision-Blizzard’s Q4 2021 investor financials and report are slated for next week on November 2nd, making this letter timely indeed.

The whole saga:

Update
The A Better ABK proto-union called today “a huge win” for the workers and the group.

“While today was a huge win for us, we remain vigilant and continue to push for other industry practices that need to change. We still stand firm by our demand that the investigation must be done by an unbiased third party, of which WilmerHale is not one. We continue to push for light to be shed on other industry practices, like crunch, which can be especially harmful the health of game devs, and especially the health of disabled and chronically ill game devs. We continue to give our unwavering support for our colleagues across the industry who are also pushing for change. @ABetterUbisoft still has demands that are not being met. Together we will be the change.”

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