The case of sexual harassment within Activision Blizzard has just gained a new chapter, this time with the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, as the protagonist. According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, published this Tuesday (16), Kotick knew about the abuses since 2018, but chose to ignore the allegations. So officials are demanding the president’s immediate resignation.
In the article, the WSJ cites several harassment situations that supposedly took place at Activision Blizzard. One of these stories tells about the experience of a former employee of Sledgehammer Games — the studio responsible for Call of Duty: Vanguard — who says she was raped by a supervisor in 2016 and 2017 after being forced to get drunk in the office and at company events.
After being ignored when reporting the rape cases to Sledgehammer Games HR, the former employee decided to sue the company and go to the police. In July 2018, the attorney in charge of the woman’s defense sent an email explaining the situation to Kotick, who, a few months later, offered an out-of-court settlement to close the case and decided not to report the incident to Activision Blizzard’s board of directors .
Other situations reported by WSJ they involve drinking during work hours and a business culture with little supervision, as well as reports of abuse by Kotick himself to women who worked directly with him. It does not stop there.
On one occasion, one of Treyarch’s bosses, Dan Bunting, was accused of sexual harassment, but Kotick stepped in to prevent him from being fired after an internal investigation, according to information obtained by the WSJ.
Former Blizzard co-president left the company
One of the sections of the report is dedicated to talking about the departure of former Blizzard co-president Jen Oneal, who shared the position of head of the studio with Mike Ybarra, since the departure of J. Allen Brack, in August of this year. Previously, Oneal was head of Vicarious Visions, a developer absorbed by Activision Blizzard in early 2021.
At the time of his resignation, Oneal commented that he was leaving to “bring more diversity to the video game industry” and that he still had hopes for Blizzard’s improvement. However, in an email obtained by WSJ, the former co-chair told Activision Blizzard’s legal team that she had lost faith in the leadership’s ability to change the company’s culture.
In that alleged email, Oneal even said that she had been harassed a few times during her 20 years working at Activision, and that she was paid less than Mike Ybarra while sharing the same role as Blizzard president with him.
Activision Blizzard’s Board defended Kotick
This Tuesday morning (16), Kotick sent a video and text statement to all company employees, stating that the report of the WSJ was incorrect. “Today’s article paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, me personally, and my leadership,” reads the CEO’s message.
Activision Blizzard’s board of directors also sided with Kotick and defended the chairman of the allegations in another statement, highlighting the salary cut and proposed actions by the CEO to prevent new cases of harassment at the company.
“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under the leadership of Bobby Kotick, the company is already implementing major industry changes, including a zero tolerance policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases in the number of women and non-binary people in our workforce, and significant internal and external investments for accelerate opportunities. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick has adequately addressed the workplace culture issues brought to its attention. The goals we set for ourselves are critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
Activision Blizzard’s Board.
Employees demand that Kotick be replaced
In response to these new reports involving Kotick, members of ABK’s Employee Alliance — Activision Blizzard King — have begun organizing a rally to demand that the CEO be replaced by another professional chosen by the company’s own workers.
For now, Activision Blizzard continues to respond to several lawsuits filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and by shareholders of the company.
With information: WSJ, Destructoid.