The list of government agencies investigating Activision Blizzard has expanded to include the SEC. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has summoned the video game publishing giant, including CEO Bobby Kotick, over records of employment, severance agreements, and communications between senior executives. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the SEC is investigating whether Activision Blizzard provided timely information about harassment and discrimination allegations to investors.
Two months ago, the California Department for Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard for promoting a culture of abuse, harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit alleges that employees participated in activities such as a “cube crawl,” in which men drank large amounts of alcohol while moving from work to work or otherwise harassed female employees. There was also a report on the infamous “Cosby Suite,” where Blizzard employees set up a room at Blizzcon in 2013 where men tried to seduce women with alcohol in order to sleep with them.
Following the initial lawsuit, Blizzard employees staged a strike and formed an employee activist group to end compulsory arbitration and to be more transparent about pay and various hiring practices. A number of Blizzard executives have either left the company or have disappeared from the public eye. J. Allen Brack, Blizzard CEO, resigned on August 3rd. On the same day, the head of the global HR department, Jesse Meschuk, also left the company. Brack was named in the lawsuit for knowing about the abuse against female employees and not addressing him, and Blizzard HR was also named as an accomplice accused of overlooking or inadequately investigating claims of harassment and other violations.
Frances Townsend – Activision Blizzard’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs and former Homeland Security advisor – called the lawsuit “a distorted and untrue picture of our company.” After violent backlash on social media to their comments, CEO Bobby Kotick released a press release calling Blizzard’s response to the lawsuit “deaf” and promising measures that included employee hearings. According to a source at Blizzard, these listening sessions were little more than “propaganda sessions” and ended after employees complained about their quality.
This latest investigation is the latest in a series of legal proceedings against Activision Blizzard. Last week, Blizzard activist group A Better ABK filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board with the help of CODE-CWA – a union for digital workers. The complaint alleges Activision Blizzard:
Employees at risk, about whom they cannot speak or communicate about wages, working hours and working conditions; notified employees that they cannot communicate with them or discuss ongoing investigations into wages, hours and working conditions; maintain too broad a social media policy; enforced the social media policy on employees who participated in protected concerted activities; Employees threatened or disciplined due to protected concerted activity; deals with the surveillance of workers involved in a sheltered concerted activity and deals with the questioning of workers about a sheltered concerted activity.
Activision Blizzard is cooperating in the investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.