Sexual Harassment, 'Frat Culture', and Cover-Up at Activision Blizzard Reaches Critical Mass
Hundreds of accusations, backed up by internal documents, are revealed by WSJ as employees at the games giant take direct action.
The Wall Street Journal has published a damning exposé of a culture of abuse at video games company Activision Blizzard. Frustrated employees have responded en masse, taking collective action to attempt to remove CEO Bobby Kotick.
Publisher of numerous high-profile games such as Call of Duty, Crash Bandicoot, and Candy Crush Saga, the company has been mired in allegations that came to light this summer. After a two-year investigation, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit detailing a misogynistic culture in which women employees were routinely sexually harassed and paid less than their male counterparts.
J. Allen Brack, president of subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, was named in the lawsuit and subsequently resigned. In response, the company hired new co-heads - one of whom, Jen Oneal, resigned a few weeks later. It transpired she had been paid less than co-head Mike Ybarra, reported sexual harassment herself, and criticised leadership for their inaction:
“Oneal reportedly emailed Activision Blizzard leadership after a month in the role, saying that “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.” The report says she was paid less than her male co-leader, Mike Ybarra and had told leadership that she had been "tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against." Oneal also alleges that she was sexually harassed at Activision prior to her time as co-head of the company.”
WSJ reports that Kotick not only knew about allegations of rape by employees but sought to actively undermine them and prevent perpetrators from being fired. Additional allegations of abuse are also levelled at Kotick, as are claims that he hid information about employee misconduct from the board:
“…internal documents and sources familiar with the company show that the CEO was aware of many of the reported abuses within the company – including accusations of rape that were emailed directly to Kotick – but did not inform the board of everything he knew.”
Shareholders have now called for Kotick, and two long-standing board members, to step down.
Since the summer lawsuit was filed, over 500 reports of harassment, bullying, pay disparities and other grievances have been filed by current or former employees.
Kotick released a video statement this week claiming that the WSJ “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” He highlighted the need for change, but also defended the company and himself at length. Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier accused him of “doubling down”.
In response, staff organised their second walkout this year demanding that Kotick is replaced, and at time of writing more than 1000 employees have signed a petition calling for Kotick’s removal. This combination of state, media, and employee power is likely to spell the end for Kotick’s current position.
SUBSCRIBE 👇👇👇 for all my articles and many other perks, including a weekly newsletter that delivers the week’s international media news, campaigns, and content. Only £5 ($7) a month.
If you can’t subscribe, please support by sharing this newsletter with others you think might be interested. Thanks! 👇👇👇