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September may be drawing to a close, but Activision Blizzard’s turbulent summer continues, as it’s been announced the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is opening a wide-ranging investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination at Acti-Blizz, and how the company responded to and reported on said allegations. For those unfamiliar, the SEC is an independent US Federal agency that oversees the stock market and can sue or suggest charges for companies if they believe they’ve misled or defrauded investors. Needless to say, a major US Federal agency taking notice of what’s going on at Activision Blizzard is a major escalation to this story, which the company can’t be happy about.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the SEC has subpoenaed Activision Blizzard and several executives, including CEO Bobby Kotick. The agency is demanding numerous documents, including all minutes from Activision board meetings since 2019, Bobby Kotick’s personal communications regarding sexual harassment and discrimination complaints within the company, and personnel files and separation agreements reached with key employees this year.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has filed suit against Activision Blizzard, alleging gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment at the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher. Activision Blizzard’s official response to the suit accuses the DFEH of “distorted […] and false” descriptions and insists the picture painted is “is not the Blizzard workplace of today.” An open letter objecting to the official response was signed by thousands of current and former Acti-Blizz employees, leading to a worker walkout. Acti-Blizz CEO Bobby Kotick would eventually apologize for the company’s initial response, calling it “tone deaf.” Several high-ranking Blizzard employees, including former president J. Allen Brack and Diablo IV and World of Warcraft team leaders have resigned or been fired, with their names being stripped for certain characters. Some employees and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union have also sued the company for, alleging intimidation and union-busting practices.
We’ll keep you updated as this SEC investigation, and the wider story about misconduct at Activision Blizzard, develops.