As Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard faces state and federal lawsuits over widespread employee mistreatment, a harrowing new report alleges that CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of reports of harassment and abuse for years before regulatory agencies began their investigations. Worse still, the report includes allegations that he actively suppressed these reports, failed to inform the board of directors about them, and protected leaders accused of serious misconduct.
The lengthy report was published today, November 16, in the Wall Street Journal, and cites interviews with current and former employees as well as a review of internal documents like memos, emails, and regulatory requests. The report includes several new allegations of misconduct, many of which involve heavy use of alcohol both at work-related functions and in the office.
The report says internal Activision Blizzard documents indicate that Kotick was aware of abuse allegations before California state investigators began looking into the company in 2018, and that he did not share this information with Activision’s board of directors. The US Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena earlier this year for Kotick to testify on this issue, as well as on how the company has handled workplace harassment and gender-based pay disparities.
Shortly after the report was published, Kotick released an official statement, saying the Wall Street Journal’s article “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.”
Two colleagues and I spent months reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct at Activision and what CEO Bobby Kotick knew and did about them. I hope you’ll read the story we just published. I’ll also thread key findings… https://t.co/QoTGrwLEbB
— Ben Fritz (@benfritz) November 16, 2021
“Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me,” Kotick writes.
In light of the new allegations, a group of Activision, Blizzard, and King employees have announced a walkout, demanding that Kotick resign from his position and for a third-party investigation of Activision Blizzard’s practises.
We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy. We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 16, 2021
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. In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September. In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”. In a subsequent letter to employees, the company has announced an end to forced arbitration, a $250 million initiative to improve diversity, and a major pay cut for Kotick.