Family Sues Activision, Claims Sexual Harassment Led to Daughter’s Suicide

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Family Sues Activision, Claims Sexual Harassment Led to Daughter’s Suicide
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The family of a former Activision Blizzard employee who died by suicide in 2017 is suing the video game publisher, alleging that the company failed to prevent workplace sexual harassment that contributed to her death.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Paul and Janet Moynihan, the parents of Kerri Moynihan. The former Activision finance manager was 32 years old when she was found dead in a Disneyland hotel room during a company retreat in April 2017.


According to the Washington Post, which first reported the news of the lawsuit on Friday, the Moynihans are claiming that the sexual harassment their daughter experienced while working at Activision was a “significant factor” in her death.

“We at Activision Blizzard were, and continue to be, deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ms. Moynihan, who was a valued member of the company,” an Activision spokesperson told dot.LA in a statement. “We will address the complaint through the legal process as appropriate, and out of respect for the family we have no further comment at this time.”

Jeff Isaacs and Adam Kargman of Downtown L.A.-based law firm Isaacs Friedberg are representing the Moynihan family in the wrongful death suit. The attorneys declined to comment.

Kerri Moynihan’s experiences with sexual harassment were referenced in an ongoing lawsuit filed against Activision by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing last July, though she wasn’t mentioned by name. The state’s complaint alleged that at an Activision holiday party in December 2016, male co-workers had passed around a picture of Moynihan’s vagina. State investigators have recently widened their investigation into workplace misconduct at Activision, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

According to the Washington Post, the Moynihan family’s lawsuit also alleges that Kerri Moynihan’s boss, former Activision senior finance director Greg Restituito, lied to police detectives investigating Moynihan’s death by concealing his sexual relationship with Moynihan. Restituito currently serves as vice president of finance at L.A.-based fintech startup Aspiration, according to his LinkedIn page, and did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Moynihan lawsuit is the latest in a growing stack of litigation against Activision, which is in the midst of being acquired by Microsoft for $69 billion. Last fall, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick faced calls for resignation from employees and shareholders after the Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick knew of alleged sexual assaults at the company but failed to inform Activision’s board.

The “Call of Duty” developer is also facing a Securities and Exchange Commision investigation into alleged workplace sexual misconduct, as well as lawsuits from shareholders seeking to block the Microsoft merger. Earlier this week, the Communications Workers of America labor union—which is seeking to unionize Activision employees—and 14 other groups sent the Federal Trade Commission a letter asking it to investigate the Microsoft deal for “anticompetitive effects'' on the gaming market.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (800) 273-8255 or by texting HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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