Activision Blizzard Sued by California DFEH Over ‘Frat Boy’ Culture, Harassment

Started by Syt, July 22, 2021, 02:26:03 AM

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The Minsky Moment

Quote from: viper37 on November 06, 2021, 06:17:33 PM
Of course, and he may realize it, now.

The accuracy of that conclusion depends on how prevalent you think the capacity for honest self-critical evaluation is among corporate leaders.

The alternative is he is just saying whatever the PR guy is telling him to say until the immediate crisis blows over.
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
--Joan Robinson

Syt

https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/more-shocking-activision-blizzard-revelations-bobby-kotick-once-told-an-assistant-he-was-going-to-have-her-killed/#comment-jump

QuoteMore shocking Activision Blizzard revelations: Bobby Kotick once told an assistant he was going to have her killed

A new report in the Wall Street Journal paints an unflattering picture of Activision-Blizzard

A new report in the Wall Street Journal details further incidents of harassment and sexual harassment at Activision-Blizzard, some dating back to 2006. The report, which Activision characterized as "inaccurate" in its own statement today, details Jen Oneal's short reign as Blizzard co-head, and why she left, and also includes allegations about CEO Bobby Kotick's own behaviour and how the company's leadership has historically responded to such issues.

Jen Oneal was promoted to co-head of Blizzard in August 2021, making her the first woman to lead one of Activision's business units. This was widely seen as a positive step for Blizzard amidst these grim allegations and ugliness. A few months later Oneal has come out as someone who has experienced this harassment herself, and announced her intention to leave: This is simply staggering.

In September 2021 Oneal emailed an Activision lawyer to announce her intent to resign, saying "it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way", alleging she had been sexually harassed earlier in her career at Activision, and that she was paid less than her male co-head Mike Ybarra. "I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against," wrote Oneal.

It was announced on November 2 that Oneal is leaving Blizzard at the end of the year.

The main allegations about Kotick are that, in 2006, he left a threatening voicemail on an assistant's phone in which he threatened to have her killed. The assistant complained and Kotick settled the matter out-of-court. Activision spokesperson Helaine Klasky told the WSJ:  "Mr. Kotick quickly apologized 16 years ago for the obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail, and he deeply regrets the exaggeration and tone in his voice mail to this day."

Another allegation is that Kotick personally intervened in the case of Dan Bunting, then co-head of Activision's Treyarch studio, a key part of the Call of Duty series. Bunting was accused by a female employee of sexually harassing her in 2017 after a night of drinking. Activision launched an internal investigation in 2019 when this was reported and recommended Bunting be fired but Kotick intervened to keep him. Bunting was instead given counseling and allowed to remain at Activision. However, after the WSJ began enquiring about this incident, Bunting has now left Activision.

The report goes on to detail rape allegations made against Javier Panameno, a Sledgehammer Games supervisor. The accuser's lawyer alleged he also had sexually harassed a second woman at the studio. The employee who accused him of the assaults reported that 2017 incident to the police: No charges were brought. The assaults were reported to Activision in 2018, and Panemeno was fired two months later.

The accuser's lawyer added that, while her client had not reported the incidents to Activision before leaving in November 2017, she had reported them to Sledgehammer's HR department while at the company.

The report also alleges that former Blizzard technology chief Ben Kilgore faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment over several years, and lied in an internal investigation about a relationship with a lower level employee. Kilgore was fired in 2018 with Kotick's approval.

Kotick has been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for an investigation into how the company handled misconduct and disclosed it (thus what Kotick knew and when, and what he told others such as the board, is very important).

Per the WSJ: "The board of directors was blindsided by the California lawsuit's allegations, including that an Activision employee killed herself after a photo of her vagina allegedly was circulated at a company party, according to people familiar with the board."

Activision's board said in a statement it had been "informed at all times with respect to the status of regulatory matters."

At the time an email was circulated around Activision-Blizzard staff by Frances Townsend, one of the company's female executives. Townsend would take an enormous amount of flak for this email, and Kotick backtracked the statement and called it "tone deaf."

Bobby Kotick drafted that statement, and directed Townsend to send it. Townsend had to apologise to a company women's group she led and was asked to resign, which she did. "Ms. Townsend should not be blamed for this mistake," said Activision spokeswoman Helaine Klasky.

These new revelations have to be viewed in the wider context of the allegations against Activision-Blizzard and various ongoing legal actions. The company is in court against the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, facing allegations that it routinely ignored complaints by female employees of harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination. The WSJ claims that since this action was launched in July Activision has received more than 500 HR complaints from current and former employees alleging "harassment, sexual assault, bullying, pay disparities and other issues."

Shortly after the WSJ article went live, Activision-Blizzard made public a statement that had earlier been circulated among employees. In it Kotick writes:

"There's an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.

"I want to say two important things about this: First, we are incredibly fortunate to have the most talented people in our industry all so committed to constant improvement. And I share this commitment. The second thing I want to say is that anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn't really appreciate how important this is to me."

Kotick's statement goes on to say Activision-Blizzard is "moving forward with a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior—and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable. Over the last few years our industry has had an uncomfortable spotlight that's been illuminating opportunities for us to change. And we must all, including me, embrace this need for change, so we can bring our very best selves to the very best place to work."

Activision-Blizzard's own, separate response to the story reiterated: "We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal's report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon."

The studio remains locked in multiple court battles of harassment allegations dating back years. Kotick has always been a part of this story, inasmuch as it's about an institutional problem at the company he more-or-less built into an institution, but until this point he's been in the typical CEO position of issuing statements and promising change. This report drags his behaviour and decision-making into question, and does so in the context of serious harassment allegations and whether senior employees were ever given preferential treatment.

Activision-Blizzard continues to contest these allegations on multiple fronts but its own board will now be asking the obvious question: Kotick built Activision into what it is, but is he the man that can turn the page on this chapter in its history? We may get the answer to that sooner than you think.

If we want to prevent catastrophic economic and societal change we will have to radically change our climate system.

Proud owner of 42 Zoupa Points.

viper37

Quote from: The Minsky Moment on November 09, 2021, 10:20:28 AM
Quote from: viper37 on November 06, 2021, 06:17:33 PM
Of course, and he may realize it, now.

The accuracy of that conclusion depends on how prevalent you think the capacity for honest self-critical evaluation is among corporate leaders.

The alternative is he is just saying whatever the PR guy is telling him to say until the immediate crisis blows over.


I don't think he wants to change things.  But I also don't think he has a choice to change things now.
I don't do meditation.<br />I drink alcohol to relax, like normal people.

If Microsoft Excel decided to stop working overnight, the world would practically end.

Razgovory

I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

Syt

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-17/playstation-chief-criticizes-activision-response-to-allegations

QuotePlayStation Chief Criticizes Activision's Response to Crisis

Sony Group Corp.'s PlayStation Chief Jim Ryan admonished Activision Blizzard Inc. Wednesday for an inadequate response to allegations that Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick was aware of sexual misconduct and harassment claims at the game publisher for years and that he had mistreated women.

In an email to employees reviewed by Bloomberg, Ryan linked to the Wall Street Journal's Tuesday report. He wrote that he and his leadership were "disheartened and frankly stunned to read" that Activision "has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment."

"We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article," he wrote. "We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation."

As one of the video game industry's biggest console manufacturers, Sony has long had a close relationship with Activision, which produces hits like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. In addition to publishing most of its games on PlayStation consoles, Activision has worked with Sony on elaborate marketing deals. The last few entries in the Call of Duty series, including this year's Call of Duty: Vanguard, have featured exclusive modes and content for the PlayStation.

Activision is also under fire from its own employees. More than 100 walked out Tuesday and called for Kotick's resignation. The board issued a statement standing by Kotick. Activision shares fell 2.5% in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

This seems unusual. Normally, games companies don't comment much on the shit happening in other companies (though I assume there's contracts between ActiBlizz and Sony for their titles to be on PlayStation so that they felt they had to say something to disassociate themselves from this).
If we want to prevent catastrophic economic and societal change we will have to radically change our climate system.

Proud owner of 42 Zoupa Points.

viper37

I don't do meditation.<br />I drink alcohol to relax, like normal people.

If Microsoft Excel decided to stop working overnight, the world would practically end.

viper37

Quote from: viper37 on June 20, 2022, 10:58:17 AMActivision Blizzard investigated Activision Blizzard and found Activision Blizzard didn't do anything wrong

QuoteOh, and it says the media made them look bad, too

Amid all the news on Overwatch 2 and Diablo Immortal, Activision Blizzard has filed a document with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in which it affirms that, after an internal investigation, it concluded its own board did not fail to act when presented with allegations of harassment.

"Contrary to many of the allegations, the board and its external advisors have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported," Activision Blizzard wrote in the filing.

The report does acknowledge there were problems within the company and that such a conclusion does little to address the concerns of those harmed. "Indeed, a single instance of someone feeling diminished at Activision Blizzard is one too many," it wrote. However, in a report from one of the consultants Activision Blizzard engaged to review harassment filings and the company's responses, the document said, "based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard." It's kind of strange to say in one breath "one is too many" and then cite a consultant saying it could have been worse.

The filing continues with the programs the company has implemented to make restitution. It cites the addition of a new diversity and inclusion executive, a program designed to train and attract employees from underrepresented areas, and its $18 million compensation fund established by its settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. (For reference Activision Blizzard reported Call of Duty alone made the company $3 billion in 2020.)

But, in another example of "you could just not say that," the company took a swipe at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) — which tried to block the EEOC settlement since it might release the company from the state's own case against it — and the media.

"It must be said that the company has been subject to an unrelenting barrage of media criticism that attempts to paint the entire company (and many innocent employees) with the stain of a very small portion of our employee population who engaged in bad behavior and were disciplined for it," the company wrote. "Much of this originated with the highly inflammatory, made-for-press allegations of the DFEH."

I guess when there's a new allegation cropping up almost daily with stories of stolen breast milk, alcohol-fueled "cube crawls," the now-infamous "Cosby suite," the fact that the CEO likely knew about all of it, the board's patent refusal to disavow said CEO despite employee objections, three employee walkouts, a strike and — let's not forget — the persistent instances of union busting for which there are at least two National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaints, it can get pretty unrelenting. It's also worth noting that while the DFEH filing did make the public aware about the "cube crawls" and the "Cosby suite," a lot of the other allegations brought forward were from independent reporting and Activision Blizzard's own current and former employees.
I don't do meditation.<br />I drink alcohol to relax, like normal people.

If Microsoft Excel decided to stop working overnight, the world would practically end.

Syt

If we want to prevent catastrophic economic and societal change we will have to radically change our climate system.

Proud owner of 42 Zoupa Points.