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The Wall Street Journal released a new report today with further allegations against Activision Blizzard. The story has several new allegations of harassment and sexual assault, including some against the CEO himself.
Earlier this year, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging a culture of workplace harassment, discrimination, and unfair pay. The situation has continued to deteriorate at the company, with employees staging walkouts and CEO Bobby Kotick promising that the game developer and publisher was on an upward trajectory. The WSJ report reveals new allegations against the company, including one against Kotick by a former employee.
In the full story, writer Ben Fritz (with assistance from Kirsten Grind and Sarah Needleman) alleges that Activision Blizzard “received more than 500 reports from current and former employees alleging harassment, sexual assault, bullying, pay disparities and other issues” following the lawsuit.
One of the allegations is that a woman who worked at Sledgehammer Games, the developers of the recently released Call of Duty: Vanguard, was raped by her male supervisor multiple times. She apparently reported the incident to human resources but received no action. She also reported it to the police. The company settled with her out of court.
Dan Bunting, the co-head of Treyarch, another Call of Duty developer, was accused of sexual harassment, and even Activision’s human resources department recommended his termination, according to Fritz’s sources. Kotick intervened to keep him and the company gave him “counseling.” Bunting allegedly left the company after the WSJ began inquiring.
Kotick himself is reported to have harassed and threatened both a female assistant and a flight attendant on his private jet. He allegedly threatened to kill his assistant in a voice mail in 2006. An Activision spokesperson did not deny his words but insisted he was speaking hyperbolically.
Earlier this month, Jen Oneal, one of the two people nominated to lead Blizzard following the departure of J. Allen Brack, announced she was leaving. At the time, she claimed optimism for the future of Blizzard, saying, “I’m inspired by the passion of everyone here, working towards meaningful, lasting change with their whole hearts.”
However, the report claims that Oneal is leaving in part because she feels no meaningful change is materializing at the company, saying in an email that “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to GamesBeat: “We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents an inaccurate and misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon.”
Kotick has since responded to the allegations in a statement, calling the report, “an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” He went on to say, “Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me … we are moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior — and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable.”
According to Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Activision Blizzard employees are launching a walkout today and are demanding that Kotick be replaced.
Update 12pm PT: Activision Blizzard’s board of directors issued a statement in response to the article, saying: “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.”
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