Back in November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of some allegations of sexual misconduct among the company’s staff but did not inform the board of directors. Well, Activision Blizzard’s board issued a statement yesterday saying that "an objective review" from external advisors "determined the Board never intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported”, and that there is no evidence "suggesting any attempt by any senior executive or employee to conceal information from the Board."
In fact, another, separate review of data concludes that "there was no widespread harassment, pattern or practice of harassment, or systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard or at any of its business units" in the United States between September 1st, 2016 and December 31st, 2021. Indeed, "based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard." You can read the SEC filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in full here.
That first review conducted by unspecified external advisors indicated there had been “some substantiated instances of gender harassment” – described as “unfortunate” - but this did not mean that Activision Blizzard’s senior leaders or the board were aware or tolerant of any such "reported" behaviour. Those instances do not, says the review, support the conclusion “that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation” at the company. The review also says that "media criticism of the Board and Activision Blizzard senior executives as insensitive to workplace matters is without merit”, and that "Activision Blizzard senior executives responded in a timely manner and with integrity and resolve to improve the workplace".
An Activision Blizzard employee group, the ABK Workers Alliance, are not impressed. They tweeted: "This is an incredible disrespect to the victims of harassment. You either knew what's going on and did nothing or actively admit you're not in control of your own company. We know it's the former, so do you."They've since tweeted a two part thread expanding upon their reaction.
In July last year, Activision Blizzard denied the findings of a two-year-long investigation by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Only last month, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors recommended that shareholders vote against a proposal by New York State that there be an investigation into how allegations of sexual harrassment and misconduct were being addressed internally. Any such vote would take place at Activision Blizzard’s annual meeting on June 21st, but the board suggested it would be better to “directly respond to employee concerns”.
Yesterday’s statement from Activision Blizzard’s board of directors reads like someone trying very hard to draw a line under things. Despite having comprehensively found they didn't do anything wrong, the statement also lists "reforms and improvements" company management have made with the board's supervision, including "the launch of a new company-wide zero-tolerance harassment policy." We can only wait for the outcome of the company’s annual meeting on June 21st.