State Attorney Alleges Gov. Newsom Interfered in Activision Lawsuit

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him

State Attorney Alleges Gov. Newsom Interfered in Activision Lawsuit

In a turn of events in the ongoing probes into Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture, a leading lawyer for California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has quit after accusing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office of interfering with the agency’s investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.

According to Bloomberg, former DFEH assistant chief counsel Melanie Proctor resigned from her role on Tuesday evening, citing the fact that her supervisor, chief counsel Janette Wipper, was “abruptly terminated” by the governor. In an email to DFEH staff, Proctor said Newsom’s office “began to interfere” with the DFEH’s investigation into the Santa Monica-based video game publisher.

“The Office of the Governor repeatedly demanded advance notice of litigation strategy and of next steps in the litigation.” Proctor wrote. “As we continued to win in state court, this interference increased, mimicking the interests of Activision’s counsel.”

Proctor added that Wipper had “attempted to protect” the DFEH’s independence but was pushed out for doing so, and that she herself was quitting “in protest of the interference and Janette’s termination.”

“Justice should be administered equally, not favoring those with political influence,” she wrote.

In a statement to dot.LA, DFEH director Kevin Kish defended the agency’s record.

“In recent years, under this administration and my leadership, DFEH has litigated groundbreaking cases that are a model of effective government enforcement of civil rights,” Kish said. “We continue to do so with the full support of the administration. Our cases will move forward based on the facts, the law, and our commitment to our mission to protect the civil rights of all Californians.”

Representatives for the governor’s office did return dot.LA’s request for comment. A spokesperson for Wipper told Bloomberg that the former DFEH chief counsel is “evaluating all avenues of legal recourse including a claim under the California Whistleblower Protection Act.”

State and federal regulators have reportedly widened separate probes into Activision’s workplace issues while the video game developer’s $69 billion merger with Microsoft awaits regulatory approval. The DFEH launched its investigation into Activision’s “frat boy” culture last summer and tried to block an $18 million settlement between the company and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that it could damage the DFEH’s case. A federal judge approved the settlement last month.

Activision’s laundry list of controversies also include conflicts with employees over unionization efforts and COVID-19 protocols, shareholder challenges to the Microsoft merger and multiple sexual harassment lawsuits from current and former employees.

Representatives for Activision did not immediately return a request for comment.

Update, April 13: This article has been updated to include a statement from DFEH director Kevin Kish.

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