Activision is once again in the spotlight thanks to a new Wall Street Journal report.
In short, Treyarch's co-head has left the company, a pair of claims have been made against Sledgehammer games, and another accusation has been thrown at Blizzard. Adding to this, the WSJ also reports instances of bad behavior on Bobby Kotick's part, as well as claims of him seemingly being unconcerned over sexual misconduct allegations made against company superiors.
According to the report, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was apparently aware of the various sexual harassment allegations against the company, and he failed to act accordingly. There were also a couple of instances where Kotick himself had to settle with former employees. One said he had left her a threatening voice mail, while another employee was fired by him for reporting sexual misconduct.
One of the instances happened in 2006 when an assistant of Kotick’s was left a voice mail by him in which he had threatened to have her killed. The matter was settled out of court according to the report.
Regarding this, an Activision representative told WSJ Kotick apologized 16 years ago for the "obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail," and said that he "deeply regrets the exaggeration and tone in his voice mail to this day."
The second instance occurred in 2007. In this case, a flight attendant who worked on a jet Kotick co-owned complained the pilot had sexually harassed her. This led to the flight attendant being fired by Kotick. The matter was settled for $200,000 in arbitration, according to the paper.
As far as Call of Duty studio Treyarch is concerned, an employee who worked at the company in 2017 accused co-lead Dan Bunting of sexual harassment. The instance was not investigated until two years later and resulted in both the human resources department and his supervisors suggesting he be fired; however, the paper reports that Kotick stepped in and suggested Bunting undergo counseling instead.
Bunting has since left the studio, reportedly after the Wall Street Journal started the investigation into the claim made against him.
When it comes another Call of Duty studio, Sledgehammer Games, two allegations of sexual misconduct have been tossed the developer's way.
In the first one, an employee stated her supervisor had raped her on two occasions after being pressured to drink alcohol at work events. Her lawyer said the incident was reported to Sledgehammer's HR department and supervisors, but nothing came of it until she obtained legal counsel and threatened to sue. The case was settled out of court and the supervisor was fired.
The second claim states that at another alcohol-fueled office party in 2017, an employee sexually harassed another. When she complained to supervisors and human resources, the accused was given a two-week paid suspension and allowed to remain at Activision in a different position. He subsequentially left the company the following year when he was fired for arguing with his manager over his green card.
Another accusation against Blizzard involved technology chief Ben Kilgore. He was said to have been fired after repeated claims that he sexually harassed employees. He also lied about having a relationship with a junior employee.
In a statement issued by Activision after the release of the WSJ piece, the company stated it was "disappointed" in the report, "and that it represents a "misleading view of Activision Blizzard" and its CEO.
"Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to [Kotick's] attention were acted upon," reads the statement. "The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their – and our - values.
"The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired.
"We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team."
Activsion's Board of Directors also issued the following statement which throws its support behind Kotick and the future of Activision Blizzard.
"The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry.
"Under Bobby Kotick's leadership, the Company is already implementing industry-leading changes including a zero-tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce, and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.
"The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment, and ability to achieve these goals.”
Today's report is just the latest in a string of Activision Blizzard news in the wake of reports the company fostered a toxic culture. These allegations came to light due to a lawsuit brought on by the state of California over bullying, harassment, and sexism in the workplace.
To combat future issues at the company, Actvision has plans to take on workplace abuse and improve its hiring practices.
An employee group for Activision Blizzard King workers, A Better ABK, has staged a walkout in protest to the new allegations, and has called for Kotick's resignation.
We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy. We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 16, 2021