Update #4: 5:54pm ET: Activision Blizzard has released the full transcript of the video message CEO Bobby Kotick sent to employees this morning, as referenced in an earlier update to this story. In the video message, Kotick doubles down, stating that the WSJ report paints an "inaccurate and misleading" picture of both the company and himself You can read the full transcript here.
In the meantime hundreds of employees have staged both physical and digital walkouts in protest of the company, demanding the resignation of Kotick. As we reported earlier today, Activision Blizzard's Board stated their confidence in Kotick and his leadership, signaling that they are standing behind the embattled CEO.
More than 100 people are at the walkout at Blizzard's campus in Irvine, California to demand Bobby Kotick's resignation, attendees tell Bloomberg -- an impressive number considering it was called two hours ago (and most employees are working from home)— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) November 16, 2021
Organizers from @ABetterABK at today’s walkout are saying there’s over 150 employees in attendance.Number looks about right—organizers also say this is worker-driven, they scrambled to react to folks’ needs. pic.twitter.com/2PJHj1tNxg— Bryant Francis (@RBryant2012) November 16, 2021
Original Story and updates below...
There is a concerning new report in the Wall Street Journal (also shared by A Better ABK) regarding allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination at Activision Blizzard. The report alleges that CEO Bobby Kotick knew about most of the incidents and either concealed them or downplayed them for years.
The report features a long investigation covering emails and legal records as well as interviews with some of the people who made allegations. One former employee alleged that she had been raped by a supervisor at one of Activision’s studios. There was an out-of-court settlement by Activision with the woman who reported the incident, though some say that Kotick didn’t tell the company's board about the allegations or the legal settlement.
With all of the allegations that have come out over the past few months about eprvasive discrimination, sexual harassment, and worse at Activision Blizzard, the company has been trying to stay on top of its image. First distancing itself from the accusations when California sued, then eventually acknowledging mistakes, hiring and firing people, and recently, trying to settle with the EEOC and promising a zero tolerance policy and promotion of diversity and inclusion efforts. The allegations have been coming for years, and the recent lawsuit and investigations came after years of work. The report describes Kotick’s efforts as being less transparent than indicated, denied by an Activision spokeswoman, and a statement from Activision’s board saying that the board had been informed at all times..
During the company’s recent earnings call on November 2, the departure of Jen Oneal from the company was announced. She was appointed in August, and in September, according to the report she emailed the company legal team about lacking faith in the ability of the company to turn its culture around and that she had been discriminated against, marginalized (she is an Asian American and gay woman), and was already wanting to resign. She gave a statement to the WSJ saying her decision was what was best for herself and her family.
While the legal cases and the investigations are ongoing, with the company looking to settle with the EEOC and California hoping to prevent that settlement, it’s unclear where this will end, but these difficult allegations deserve their attention. Change will take a lot of work, not just promises.
UPDATE: 1:15PM ET - Bobby Kotick has reportedly referred to the company's stated "zero tolerance policy", and A Better ABK has responded with a demand that Kotick resign, with a new walkout planned.
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
UPDATE #2 1:35PM ET - Activision Blizzard has released a statement to Bloomberg, stating the report presents a "inaccurate and misleading view." The statement goes on to say that the WSJ post "fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their - and [Activision Blizzard's] - values."
Schreier also reports that CEO Bobby Kotick in a video to employees "doubled down" on the statement, defending the company and his "conviction" to make Activision the "most welcoming and inclusive workplace."
As Activision Blizzard stock plummets this morning, the company is on the defensive. In a statement to Bloomberg, a spokesperson says the WSJ "presents an inaccurate and misleading view" of the company and Kotick and "ignores important changes." pic.twitter.com/i37g1U26pv— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) November 16, 2021
Bobby Kotick is doubling down. In a video to employees this morning, passed along to me, he attacked the WSJ article and defended Activision. "Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming and inclusive workplace doesn't really appreciate how important this is to me."— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) November 16, 2021
Update #3: 3:20pm ET: In a release on the Activision Investor portal, the board at Activision Blizzard is standing by CEO Bobby Kotick, despite the reports today that allege he knew about the incidents involving sexual harrassment and descrimination at the company. Despite an employee walkout today and share prices going down, the board reaffirmed thier confidence in the Activision Blizzard CEO, stating they "confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention."
Here is the statement in full:
"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.”