Update 10:57 am PT: This story has been updated to include a separate memo sent by Activision Blizzard's Fran Townsend. The update has been added to the bottom of the story.
In the wake of allegations that Activision Blizzard fostered an environment that saw a "bro culture" be allowed to flourish at the company, Blizzard's president J. Allen Brack sent a memo to employees, calling the allegations "extremely troubling."
The internal memo, which was released by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, has Brack condemning "bro culture," stating that he has spent his career fighting against that pervasive force in the games industry. While Brack doesn't admit fault, either on his part or on behalf of Blizzard as a whole, he does address the allegations and that he wants employees to feel comfortable coming forward with issues and claims, both to an internal or external source.
"It goes - with saying - it takes courage to come forward, and all claims brought to the company are investigated by internal and (when needed) external investigators. We take these claims very seriously. Claims can be made without fear of retaliation, and many times, I attend to them personally, along with our other leaders," Brack states in the memo to employees.
Further down the memo, Brack invokes feminist activist Gloria Steinem - someone he calls a "revered saint of the Brack household." Brack goes on to state that the "fight for equality is incredibly important" to him, stating that he disdains "bro culture."
"Stepping back - when I talked with Bobby [Kotick] about taking this job, one o the first things I mentioned was a revered saint of the Brack household - Gloria Steinem. Growing up, the value of weomen as equals, understanding the work that had been done for equal treatment, and the fact that there was still much to do, were common themes. This is just one of the reasons whjy the fight for equality is incredibly important to me. People with different backgrouds, views, and experiences are essential for Blizzard, our teams, and our player community. I disdain 'bro culture,' and have spent my career fighting against it."
It should be noted that in the lawsuit, Brack is mentioned specifically, with the complaint filed by the California Department of Fair Eployment and Housing stating that the Blizzard president, and the company at large, have "failed to take effective remedial measures in response" to the claims of harrassment and the bro culture allegedly allowed to flourish at the company.
The lawsuit alleges:
"Numerous complaints about unlawful harrassment, discrimination, and retaliation were made to Defendants' human resources personnel and executives, including to Blizzard Entertainment's President J. Allen Brack. But, Defendents failed to take effective remedial measures in response to these complaints. Employees were further discouraged from complaining as human resource personnel were known to be close to the alleged harrassers. An internal investigation into the human resource unit noted that there was a "big lack of trust" and that "HR not held in high regard." Unsurprisingly, employee's complaints were treated in a perfunctory and dismissive manner and not kept confidential. As a result of these complaints, female employees were subjected to retaliation, including but not limited to being deprived of work on projects, unwillingly transferred to different units, and selected for layoffs."
Brack notes in the memo that the Blizzard's leadership will be meeting with employees to discuss "how we can move forward." Brack also stresses to employees who received the memo that they can talk to any manager, HR partner, legal, and even encouraged employees who are more comfortable with speaking outside the company to do so via Activision Blizzard's Way2Play integrity line, which is operated by an independent third party.
You can read the memo in full in the tweet below. For their part, Activision Blizzard's public statement at the news of the lawsuit is a much different tone, hitting back hard against the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for the way the investigation has been handled, stating that the alleged claims were distorted or false, and more. You can read the original statement here.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack sent out an email to staff last night addressing the allegations from this week's explosive lawsuit, calling them "extremely troubling" and saying that he'd be "meeting with many of you to answer questions and discuss how we can move forward." pic.twitter.com/NsMV6CNdTE— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 23, 2021
Activision Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend has reportedly sent a separate memo to employees, which, according to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, has some employees "fuming." The memo, which feels more fiery and in line with Activision Blizzards statement released on Wednesday, calls the lawsuit brought forth by the State of California "meritless and irresponsible." She claims in the memo that the lawsuit presents a picture that is "distorted and untrue," stating that it brings up "factually incorrect old, and out of context stories - some from more than a decade ago."
The memo touches on the work Activision Blizzard has done to take what Townsend calls a "hardline approach to inappropriate or hostile work environments and sexual harrassment issues." She also goes on to state that the team at Activision Blizzard has "put tremendous effort into creating fair compensation policies that reflect [Activision Blizzard's] commitment to equal opportunity."
You can read the full statement in the Tweet embed below.
Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the Homeland Security Advisor to George W. Bush from 2004-2007 and joined Activision in March, sent out a very different kind of email that has some Blizzard employees fuming. pic.twitter.com/BxGeMTuRYF— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 23, 2021