Activision Blizzard CEO reportedly subpoenaed as part of federal investigation

The orc statue outside of Blizzard's Irvine HQ

Activision Blizzard is under “a wide-ranging investigation” by an agency of the US government. That comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed CEO Bobby Kotick and other senior executives as part of an investigation into how the company has responded to sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination complaints from its employees.

The WSJ reports that the main goal of the investigation is to find out “whether Activision and its executives properly disclosed allegations of workplace harassment and gender-pay issues, and whether any of that information should have been shared earlier with investors and other parties”. To aid its investigation, the agency has requested documents such as minutes from board meetings, the personnel files of six former employees, separation agreements with staffers from this year, and Kotick’s communications with other senior figures concerning sexual harassment or discrimination complaints from employees.

We reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment, and have been told by a spokesperson that the company is cooperating with the SEC. “The US Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an investigation concerning the company’s disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues, and has issued subpoenas to the company and several current and former employees that seek information related to this,” an Activision spokesperson tells us. “The company is cooperating with the SEC.”

In a separate development this week, Blizzard’s chief legal officer, Claire Hart, took to LinkedIn to reveal that she has left the company. It’s not currently clear, however, if Hart’s departure is linked to the SEC’s investigation.

“After more than three years at Blizzard Entertainment, I have decided to move on to my next adventure. Friday was my last day,” Claire Hart writes. “The past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honoured to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses. I’ll be taking a short break before making my next move.”

Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees have staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded change at the company. The lawsuit is ongoing; follow the latest developments here. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting”, filed in September by a workers’ union.

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