A new report in the Wall Street Journal Activision-Blizzard details further incidents of harassment and sexual assault, some dating back to 2006. The report, which Activision described as “inaccurate” in its own statement today, details the brief reign of Jen Onall as Blizzard co-head, and why she left, and includes the appointment of CEO Bobby Kotick. Also included are allegations about his behavior and how the company’s leadership has historically reacted to such issues.
jane was only Promoted to co-head of Blizzard in August 2021, she became the first woman to head one of Activision’s business units. It was seen as a positive move for Blizzard amid these serious accusations and ugliness. A few months later, Onal poses as someone who has experienced this harassment himself, and announces his intention to leave: It’s simply shocking.
In September 2021, Oneal emailed an Activision attorney to announce his intention to resign, saying that “it was clear that the company would not properly prioritize our people”, alleging that Activision had She had been sexually assaulted earlier in her career, and was paid less than her male co-leader Mike Ybarra. Onal wrote, “I have been tokenised, marginalized and discriminated against.”
It was announced on 2 November That Oneal is leaving Blizzard at the end of the year.
The main allegation about Kotick is that, in 2006, he left a threatening voicemail on an assistant’s phone in which he threatened to kill her. The assistant complained and Kotik settled the matter out of court. Activision spokesperson Helen Klaski told the WSJ: “Mr Kotick apologized quickly for the apparently exaggerated and inappropriate voicemail 16 years ago, and he deeply regrets the exaggeration and tone in his voicemail to this day.”
Another allegation is that Kotick personally intervened in the case of Dan Bunting, the co-head of Activision’s Treyarch studio, a major part of the Call of Duty series. Bunting was accused by a female employee of sexually assaulting her one night in 2017 after drinking alcohol. Activision launched an internal investigation in 2019 after it was reported and recommended Bunting be fired but Kotick intervened to keep him. Bunting was instead mentored and allowed to remain at Activision. However, Bunting has now left Activision after the WSJ began to inquire about the incident.
The report detailed the rape allegations leveled against Sledgehammer Games supervisor Javier Panameno. The lawyer for the accuser alleged that he also sexually assaulted another woman in the studio. The employee who accused him of assault reported the 2017 incident to police: No charges were filed. The attacks were reported to Activision in 2018, and Panemeno was fired two months later.
The lawyer for the accused said that, while his client had not reported the incidents to Activision before leaving in November 2017, he did report it to Sledgehammer’s human resources department while at the company.
The report also alleges that former Blizzard technology chief Ben Kilgore faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment over the years, and lied in an internal investigation about relationships with a lower-level employee. Kilgore was fired in 2018 with the approval of Kotick.
Kotick has been called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into how the company handled and disclosed the misconduct (thus what Kotick knew and when, and what he told others, such as the board, is very important). ).
According to the WSJ: “The board of directors was blindsided by allegations from the California lawsuit in which, according to people familiar with the board, an Activision employee allegedly posed herself after a photo of her vagina was broadcast at a company party. was killed.”
Activision’s board said in a statement that it was “informed at all times regarding the state of regulatory affairs.”
An email was circulated around Activision-Blizzard employees by Frances Townsend, one of the company’s female executives at the time. Townsend will receive heavy criticism for this email, and Kotick overtook the statement and called him “Absolutely deaf.”
Bobby Kotick drafted that statement, and instructed Townsend to send it. Townsend had to apologize to the women’s group, the company she led, and was asked to resign, which she did. “Ms Townsend should not be blamed for this mistake,” said Activision spokeswoman Helen Classy.
These new revelations should be viewed in a wider context. Charges against Activision-Blizzard and various ongoing legal actions. The company is in court against the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, facing allegations that it Complaints of harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination by women employees are routinely ignored, The WSJ claims that since the action launched in July, Activision has received more than 500 HR complaints from current and former employees alleging “harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, pay disparities and other issues.”
Shortly after the WSJ article went live, Activision-Blizzard made public a statement that had previously been circulated among employees. Kotik writes in it,
“There is an article today that presents a false and misleading view of our company, personally and about my leadership.
“I want to say two important things about this: First, we are incredibly fortunate to have the most talented people in our industry committed to continuous improvement. And I share that commitment. Secondly, I want to say It is that anyone who doubts my belief in having the most welcoming, inclusive workplace, doesn’t really appreciate how important it is to me.”
If you thought Bobby Kotick had a whopping $155 million in 2020, you should see what he would do if Activision replaced him. (see highlights) pic.twitter.com/CWixrPr8TA23 June 2021
Kotick’s statement further says that Activision-Blizzard is “moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior – and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable. In our industry over the past few years There has been an uncomfortable spotlight that has been illuminating our opportunities for change. And we all, including me, must acknowledge this need for change, so that we can make our best place to work. “
Activision-Blizzard’s own, different response to the story reiterated: “We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to their attention.” Yes, action was taken against them.”
The studio has been locked in several court battles over allegations of harassment over the years. Kotick has always been a part of this story, as it is about an institutional problem in the company, which he has built into more or less an institution, but up to this point he has been in the typical CEO position of issuing statements and promising change. . The report questions their behavior and decision-making, and does so in the context of allegations of serious harassment and whether senior employees were ever given priority.
Activision-Blizzard continues to oppose these allegations on several fronts, but its own board will now ask the obvious question: Kotick has made Activision into it, but is he the person who could turn the page in this chapter’s history. ? We may get the answer sooner than you think.