Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of a number of sexual assault allegations at the company, according to a troubling report from the Wall Street Journal. The report states that Kotick himself also mistreated several female employees, in yet another string of damning accusations being levelled at the company, following allegations of sexual misconduct brought to light earlier this year.
A content warning is necessary here, as the remainder of this article includes details on the aforementioned allegations. The report from WSJ claims that Kotick received an email in July 2018 from a lawyer representing a former employee at Call of Duty: Vanguard developer Sledgehammer Games. The email stated that the Sledgehammer employee had been pressured to drink an excessive volume of alcohol, before subsequently being raped by her former supervisor.
At the time, it's said that Activision managed to make an out-of-court settlement with the employee in question, but Kotick failed to inform the board regarding the incident. When Dan Bunting, co-head of Call of Duty: Black Ops studio Treyarch, was accused of sexual harassment in 2017, Activision's HR department investigated the matter and advised that he be fired. Apparently, Kotick blocked this, and Bunting departed Treyarch after being asked about the incident by the Wall Street Journal.
“Mr. Kotick would not have been informed of every report of misconduct at every Activision Blizzard company, nor would he reasonably be expected to have been updated on all personnel issues,” an Activision spokesperson countered in a statement.
As for the accusations brought against Kotick, these go back as far as 2006, during which time he allegedly issued a death threat against an assistant in a voicemail. Again, this was settled out of court, and acknowledged in another statement from Activision: “Mr. Kotick quickly apologised 16 years ago for the obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail, and he deeply regrets the exaggeration and tone in his voice mail to this day," the statement reads.
Further revelations from WSJ's report include new insights into the departure of Jen Oneal after just three months as co-CEO at Blizzard Entertainment. Her decision to leave came after sending an email to Activision's legal team, in which she listed her own experiences of harassment at the company, prior to accepting the new role. She also claimed that she was being paid less than her male counterpart, despite taking up the role at the same time she did.
In response to the lengthy list of damaging allegations brought against Activision, employees have been prompted into pushing for Kotick to resign from his post, with members of the 'A Better ABK Workers Alliance' staging a walkout at Blizzard HQ. “We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy,” they said in a message posted to Twitter. ”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." This is not the first walkout at the company in response to reports of sexual misconduct at Activision Blizzard.
Activision has since issued a press release off the back of the Wall Street Journal report. “We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO,” it reads. "Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their – and our – values.
“The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart,” the press release statement continues. “Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
Additionally, the board at Activision has decided to support Kotick, as the company apparently continues to make changes. “The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry,” a statement from Activision's board of directors reads. “Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
The statement adds: “The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
Since the emergence of numerous reports and claims made against Activision Blizzard regarding inappropriate behaviour, misconduct, and sexual harassment at the company, a long line of employees have departed or have been dismissed, and no doubt there will be further changes, departures, and dismissals to come.
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
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.
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