In response to the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard brought by the state of California, former president Mike Morhaime and current president J. Allen Brack have issued public and company-focused statements regarding the allegations brought forth in the suit.
Earlier this week, it was reported that a two-year investigation by the state of California has brought about a lawsuit aimed at Activision Blizzard. The investigation brought to light multiple accounts of sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, unfair pay, and inappropriate behavior and comments directed at female employees within the company.
Now, one former high-level executive at Blizzard, and one current executive, have addressed the allegations made against the developer, one publicly and one privately, by calling the outlined behavior out as unacceptable.
Current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stated in a leaked email obtained by Forbes that he detests "bro-culture," and that the allegations made by current and former employees are "extremely troubling."
Brack states in the email that it is "unacceptable" for anyone in the company to face discrimination or harassment and that everyone should feel safe working with the company whether it is in-office or while at an event such as BlizzCon.
He goes on to say that it "takes courage to come forward," and that any and all allegations made are investigated internally and when needed, externally.
"We take these claims very seriously," he states. "Claims can be made without fear of retaliation, and many times I attend to them personally along with our other leaders."
As noted by Massively OP, Brack is one of the parties listed in California's suit against Activision Blizzard, for not taking "effective remedial measures” when it came to claims made by female employees. It's stated in the documents that Alex Afrasiabi, former senior creative director of WoW and also named in the lawsuit, was accused by staffers of multiple harassment infractions.
According to the suit (page 15), Brack apparently verbally counseled Afrasiabi multiple times, and despite a "slap on the wrist," Afrasiabi allegedly continued to make derogatory remarks, sexually harass, and grope female employees.
Meanwhile, co-founder and former president of Blizzard Entertainment Mike Morhaime has spoken out against the behavior depicted in the lawsuit. In an open letter, Morhaime said was he was sorry if he failed any female employees, and that he feels he let them down.
Here's his statement in full:
"I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.
"I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly, we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.
"Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.
"I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can.
"I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of."
One current Blizzard employee, Josh “Devolore” Allen, calls Morhaime’s statement "100% bullshit," alleging the former executive knew what was going on within the company.
"'If I’d known this was happening I would have stopped it’ says the man who was told repeatedly that it was happening and did nothing to stop it
"I’ve refrained from giving my own comments on the situation at Actiblizz because frankly, there are more important people you should be listening to right now. But that statement from a certain former leader was 100% bullshit and I’m furious about it.
"He knew. He did nothing. Don’t get me wrong, current leadership is fucking up hard right now too. But please don’t believe for a second that the culture that allowed all of this to happen for the last couple of decades was somehow built by the guy who’s been in charge for 3 years."
One former female employee also spoke out against Morhaime's statement and produced an email sent to him back in 2018 regarding a male employee who was promoted despite exhibiting "egregious bad behavior." She states in the email that men such as this unnamed employee would eventually "cost the company money and its good reputation."
"As long as men in power are behaving in a predatory fashion towards women in the company, it will be impossible for women to feel truly comfortable, valued, or safe, it will be harder and harder for the company to draw in and keep talented women who love games."
In sharp contrast to the statements made by the current and former presidents of Blizzard, Fran Townsend, executive VP for corporate affairs at Activision Blizzard who has been with the company for four months and who is the former Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush, sent out an email which can only be described as dismissive and a little defensive.
According to the statements made in Townsend's email, the lawsuit presents a "distorted and untrue picture" of the company and that the allegations are "factually incorrect," old, and tell "out of context stories" some of which she says happened "over a decade ago."
She states that the company takes a "hard-line approach" to an inappropriate or hostile work environment, and totes the company's Speak Up campaign which "reinforces" the company's "zero tolerance for retaliation against those who speak up."
"We work at a company that truly values equality and fairness," states the email. "Rest assured that leadership is committed to continuing to maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace.
"We cannot let egregious actions of others, and a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit, damage our culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees. We aspire in our community to do great things: in our games, in our impact on society, and in our work environment. We continue to hold firm to our principles and invest, as we have in the past, the resources to ensure quality opportunities for all employees.
"We remain committed as a leadership team to doing what is right."
Considering the lawsuit was only filed recently, it may be a while before Activision Blizzard has its day in court. Until then, we can only speculate that things will get worse for the company before it gets better and that some heads will roll in the fallout, if last year's scandal involving Ubisoft is any indication of what's to come.