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Activision Blizzard internal review finds "no evidence" it ignored harassment

"Media criticism of the Board and Activision Blizzard senior executives as insensitive to workplace matters is without merit"

Activision Blizzard today released a summary of an internal review that found no evidence company's senior executives looked the other way on harassment claims.

"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," the report said.

The report did not address the Wall Street Journal's reporting that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick overruled an HR department determination that a co-head of Treyarch be fired over an allegation of sexual harassment.

"The review of contemporaneous documentation and statements by relevant individuals shows that media criticism of the Board and Activision Blizzard senior executives as insensitive to workplace matters is without merit," the company said.

It acknowledged that there were "some substantiated instances of gender harassment," but said they were not evidence of systemic problems. It also pointed to external advisors that it said agreed with the board of directors' findings.

"Over the years the company has appropriately disciplined and exited employees to ensure that our practices match our policies," it said. "There simply is no room at Activision Blizzard for anyone who does not practice our corporate value of providing a safe, inclusive and welcoming workplace that serves as a model for our industry."

The report did not address a report that Kotick himself once threatened to have an assistant killed, something the company called an "obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail" that Kotick had already apologized for, nor did it address an arbitration settlement Kotick reached when a flight attendant on a private jet he co-owned alleged he fired her for complaining about sexual harassment.

Activision Blizzard also once again took issue with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, referring to the agency's ongoing lawsuit against it as "highly inflammatory, made-for-press allegations."

The publisher's original response to the DFEH lawsuit was similarly strident, calling it "distorted," "meritless and irresponsible," "inaccurate," and "rushed." Over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter condemning the response, calling it "abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for."

The publisher quickly changed its tone, with Kotick calling the first response "tone deaf" and apologizing that "we did not provide the right empathy and understanding."

Beyond the results of the internal review, Activision Blizzard listed reforms it has made, like quadrupling the size of its ethics and compliance team since the DFEH suit was filed, instituting a zero tolerance harassment policy, waiving mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and discrimination claims (for incidents occurring after October 28 of 2021), and "[making] progress in ensuring there are diverse slates of candidates for all open positions," even though the company fought a shareholder proposal on that issue early last year.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.