Activision Says Top Executives Didn’t Ignore Harassment Reports

The review, conducted by independent directors on the Activision board’s Workplace Responsibility Committee and external advisers, also didn’t unearth any evidence to suggest that any senior executive or employee tried to conceal information from the board.

“Contrary to many of the allegations, the Board and its external advisers have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported,” the company said in a securities filing.

The review by Activision comes months after The Wall Street Journal reported that federal securities regulators were investigating how Activision handled employees’ allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination.

The Journal has reported that

Bobby Kotick,

the longtime chief executive of Activision, knew for years about allegations of employee misconduct in many parts of the company and didn’t inform the board of directors about everything he knew, including alleged rapes. The Journal cited people familiar with the matter and internal documents, including memos, emails and regulatory requests.

Activision said the Journal’s reporting gave “a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO” and “ignores important changes under way to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace.”

In Thursday’s filing, Activision reiterated its defense, saying: “The review of contemporaneous documentation and statements by relevant individuals shows that media criticism of the Board and Activision Blizzard senior executives as insensitive to workplace matters is without merit.”

The company added that senior executives at the company responded to allegations in a timely manner “and with integrity and resolve to improve the workplace.”

Activision Blizzard employees protested last year in Irvine, Calif.



Photo:

david mcnew/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Activision said that its investigation did substantiate instances of gender harassment, but that such instances didn’t constitute a systemic issue.

After the allegations about Activision’s workplace became public,

Microsoft Corp.

agreed to buy Activision for $75 billion in January. The Journal has reported that the allegations provided a catalyst for Microsoft’s gaming head to approach Mr. Kotick about the deal, which is scheduled to close by mid-2023.

Over the past year, Activision’s board has made changes, including pushing out and disciplining dozens of employees, rolling out a zero-tolerance harassment policy and an end to mandatory arbitration for harassment and discrimination claims.

In addition to its own review, the board hired a former chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Gilbert Casellas, to review data from investigated reports of gender harassment from across the U.S. over a nearly five-year span.

Mr. Casellas’s review found there was no widespread or systemic harassment at Activision, and that the number of reports of misconduct at Activision were comparatively low for a company of its size.

The company said in Thursday’s regulatory filing that the allegations of misconduct at Activision were “the stain of a very small portion of our employee population who engaged in bad behavior and were disciplined for it.” It added that the company “has been subject to an unrelenting barrage of media criticism.”

Allegations of gender bias and harassment at Activision began mounting a year ago when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed suit against the company, accusing it of paying female employees less than their male counterparts and providing them with fewer opportunities to advance. The state regulator also claimed that Activision ignored complaints by female employees of blatant harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

Activision has long denied the state’s charges and in its regulatory filing Thursday the company criticized the state’s investigation, saying “there has also been no court finding, verdict, or ruling concluding the DFEH allegations to be true.” Activision further characterized those allegations as “highly inflammatory [and] made-for-press.”

The Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Deal

Last fall, federal securities regulators also launched a wide-ranging investigation into Activision, including how the videogame-publishing giant handled employees’ allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination. The Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed Activision and several of its senior executives, including Mr. Kotick. Activision has said it is cooperating with the investigation.

Separately, Activision last fall agreed to pay $18 million as part of a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had been examining allegations of gender-based harassment and retaliation at the company. A California judge approved the settlement in March.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Activision has about 10,000 employees across the world and is known for producing hit videogame franchises Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush. Mr. Kotick acquired the company in 1991 with a group of investors for about $400,000. Last year it reported $8.8 billion in revenue.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at [email protected] and Will Feuer at [email protected]

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