Activision Blizzard staff staged another walkout, calling for Kotick to be replaced amid fresh allegations. These include Kotick knowing about many incidents of abuse and failing to notify the board of directors or investors, and vouched to keep accused staff on board.
While leaving Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack was replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra; it was also recently claimed Oneal was paid less than Ybarra, and had been sexually harassed while at Activision. There were also allegations of Kotick’s own harassment.
In 2006 Kotick allegedly left a threatening voice mail to an assistant, saying he would have her killed. The matter was allegedly settled out of court, and a spokesperson stated he deeply regretted the “obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate” message.
Despite all this the board of directors issued a statement, confident that Kotick “appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention,” along with his “leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.” Shareholders, with a total of 4.8 million shares between them, called for Kotick to resign however, along with two directors of the board.
Led by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) Investment Group, Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger stated they would likely be replaced by diverse directors, with at least one seat to go to an Activision Blizzard employee who is not an executive.
The ABK Workers Alliance- a coalition of workers from multiple Activision Blizzard studios- shared a petition from Activision Blizzard staff; calling for Kotick’s “removal.” It currently sits at over 1,500 signatures; featuring staff from Activision, Blizzard, Raven Software, Demonware,
Toys For Bob, King, and more. Over 300 of the signatories are senior staff, while over 60 are producers or higher, and 25 are directors.
It is not just developers and executives under Activision Blizzard who have had enough. Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan and Head of Xbox Phil Spencer have both expressed their disgust.
In an email to employees obtained by Bloomberg, Ryan stated he and other PlayStation leaders were “disheartened and frankly stunned to read” that Activision had “not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”
Ryan also told staff they had reached out immediately to Activision after the allegations came to light “to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article. […] We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
Bloomberg also reported on another email to staff they obtained; this time from Spencer to staff. Spencer stated that he and the gaming leadership team were “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” at Activision Blizzard.
However, Spencer stated actions that would be taken in light of the allegations, and that he was “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments.”
How far will this go? Will both PlayStation and Xbox refuse to put Activision Blizzard games on their console until major changes are made? Or will Kotick be ousted before then? What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment; possibly leading to one woman committing suicide on a company trip. Other claims include discrimination by women being paid less, promoted less frequently, and after longer periods of time.
While initially dismissed by Activision Blizzard as including “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” and “factually incorrect, old and out of context,” almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” Staff led the first walkout soon after.
Kotick stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf,” and announced they were bringing in law firm WilmerHale to conduct an immediate review of their policies and procedures. While announcing third party evaluations, diverse hiring, and removing references to accused developers from their games; employees were dissatisfied with the response for not addressing their demands.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff also rejected WilmerHale as the third party auditing the company. This was due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and being led by Stephanie Avakian; allegedly specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”
Claims from temporary workers were added to the lawsuit; along with allegations of Activation Blizzard destroying documents relating to employees and pay.
After an $18 million USD settlement deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the DFEH objected for it being too lenient, and would hinder their own case as relevant documents were proposed to be destroyed. However, the EEOC claimed there was a conflict of interest thanks to two DFEH attorneys having worked for the EEOC; putting both cases in jeopardy.
Most recently, Kotick announced a zero-tolerance harassment policy and diverse hiring goals for the company; while also reducing his own compensation to its legal minimum. This was prior to the new allegations, including those made against him.