Activision Blizzard’s response to discrimination and harassment is ‘inadequate’, says shareholder


An Activision Blizzard shareholder criticized the company for not responding well enough to its recent lawsuit over sexual harassment and discrimination.

SOC Investment Group, which owns shares in Activision Blizzard, sent a letter to the company’s senior independent director, saying that CEO Bobby Kotick’s response to the lawsuit and the resulting employee backlash “does not go far enough” to address the issues involved.

“While we appreciate the improved tone and increased detail of CEO Kotick’s recent letter to Activision Blizzard employees, customers and shareholders, the changes Mr. Kotick announced do not go far enough to address the deep and pervasive problems of ‘equity, inclusion and management of human capital in the company,’ the letter reads.

He then criticizes Activision Blizzard for what he considers to be three main failures to act, starting with the executive recruiting process.

“No changes have been announced or proposed that would in any way alter the current process for filling vacant board or senior management positions,” he said.

Activision Blizzard's response to discrimination and harassment is
It was announced last week that Blizzard President J. Allen Brack was leaving

He also accuses the company of not doing anything about executive compensation, saying: “No change has been announced with regard to executive compensation, either with regard to the clawback of executive compensation. have engaged in or allowed abusive practices, or to align frameworks with the fairness goals set forth by Mr. Kotick.

Finally, he criticizes Kotick’s announcement that the law firm WilmerHale had been hired to conduct a review of the company’s policies and procedures. “The review announced by Wilmer Hale is flawed in several ways,” he said.

“This company has an excellent reputation as an advocate for the rich and the connected, but they do not have a track record of uncovering wrongdoing, the lead investigator does not have extensive experience investigating the harassment and abuse in the workplace, and the scope of the investigation fails to address the full range of fairness issues recognized by Mr. Kotick.

The letter says that in order to have smooth operations and a solid reputation going forward, the company must commit to a number of major changes:

  • increase board diversity and equity by adding a female board member, “- preferably a woman with a history of advocating for marginalized people and communities”, by the end of the year
  • commit to gender parity on the board of directors by 2025
  • reserve at least one seat on the board of directors for “a candidate chosen by current employees as their representative”
  • “Recover bonuses” from executives who are found to have adopted or allowed abusive behavior
  • no bonus allocation to executives for 2021
  • ensure that future executive bonus awards are “subordinate to the company as a whole; achieve clearly articulated and independently verified milestones for diversity and equity ”
  • undertake a company-wide equity assessment “that will encompass all of the concerns (including entrenched inequalities in gender, gender identity, sexuality and race) expressed by Mr. Kotick , Activision Blizzard employees and customers: issues of fairness and representation in game design, the development process and in user forums and similar settings.

This is the latest development in an ongoing story following a complaint by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) last month, which accuses the company of failing to address the complaints. sexual harassment and discrimination.

Activision Blizzard's response to discrimination and harassment is
Blizzard has been at the center of the lawsuit, which alleges lack of action on harassment and discrimination complaints

The lawsuit says the DFEH “found evidence” that the company “discriminated against female employees with respect to terms of employment, including pay, assignment, promotion, dismissal, constructive dismissal and retaliation “and that” employees were sexually harassed “. .

The lawsuit and Activision Blizzard’s subsequent response led to a staff walkout accompanied by an open letter signed by thousands of current and former employees.

Last week, it was announced that Blizzard Chairman J. Allen Brack – one of the few people actually named in the lawsuit and accused of failing to take appropriate action – would be leaving the company “to seek further news. opportunities ”, with Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra. replace him as the new co-maintainers of Blizzard.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said on a results conference call last week that the company will “lead by example” on how to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination in the games industry .

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