Activision Blizzard confirms SEC investigation into sexual misconduct allegations

Activision Blizzard has confirmed an investigation by US regulators following allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination at one of the world’s most high-profile video game companies.

The California-based company said on Tuesday that it was complying with a recent Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena sent to current and former employees and executives and the company itself on “employment matters and related issues”.

The Wall Street Journal had reported on Monday that the SEC was investigating how the company had treated complaints of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination and had subpoenaed senior executives including the CEO, Bobby Kotick, a well-known tech billionaire. An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

Activision Blizzard – the maker of popular video games including Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft – also said on Tuesday that it had cooperated with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into employment practices and that it was working with multiple regulators “on addressing and resolving workplace complaints it has received” and that it was committed to making the company “one of the best, most inclusive places to work”. It has hired a new “chief people officer” from Disney.

The company’s shares have dropped 20% in two months as legal woes build over an alleged culture of discrimination against women and minorities.

In late July, California’s civil rights agency sued the company, alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The lawsuit accused the multibillion-dollar company of violating the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws, and painted a disturbing picture of life for female employees including claims of rampant sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and a “frat boy” workplace culture.

The lawsuit has prompted a reckoning within the video gaming industry and saw hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees stage a walkout over the summer.

Kotick has said in response to the lawsuit that the company is “taking swift action” to “ensure a safe environment” for staff. “There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind.”

Meanwhile, a shareholder lawsuit in August said the company failed to disclose to investors that it was being investigated in California and that it had workplace culture issues that could result in legal problems. The shareholder suit noted unhappiness within the company, saying more than 2,000 current and former Activision employees signed a petition criticizing the company’s response to the California suit as “insulting” and saying they did not trust leadership to “place employee safety above their own interests”.

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