Newsom Denies Interfering With State’s Activision Probe

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 and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Newsom Denies Interfering With State’s Activision Probe
Gov. Gavin Newsom is refuting claims that his office interfered with a state agency’s investigation into sexual misconduct and discrimination at Activision Blizzard, following a state attorney’s assertion that her boss was fired for resisting the meddling by Newsom’s office.

Melanie Proctor, a former assistant chief counsel at the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), resigned from her post Tuesday, citing the governor’s interference with the DFEH’s investigation into the Santa Monica-based video game developer.

In an email to DFEH staff viewed by Bloomberg, Proctor criticized the recent dismissal of her supervisor, former DFEH chief counsel Janette Wipper, who she said had “attempted to protect” the agency’s independence and was pushed out for doing so. Proctor said the governor’s office “repeatedly demanded advance notice of [the DFEH’s] litigation strategy and of next steps in the litigation,” to the point that it began “mimicking the interests of Activision’s counsel.”

Newsom’s office shot back against Proctor’s allegations on Thursday. In a statement to dot.LA, the governor’s communications director, Erin Mellon, said “claims of interference by our office are categorically false.”

“The Newsom administration supports the effective work DFEH has done under director Kevin Kish to enforce civil rights laws and protect workers, and will continue to support DFEH in their efforts to fight all forms of discrimination and protect Californians,” Mellon added.

Yet Proctor’s assertion in her resignation letter that “justice should be administered equally, not favoring those with political influence” appears even more notable after a new Politico report this week highlighting ties between Newsom and Activision Blizzard’s leadership.

According to the report, Activision board member Casey Wasserman, founder and CEO of Westwood-based sports marketing and talent agency Wasserman Media Group, was a major donor to the campaign to prevent Newsom’s recall in 2021. Wasserman donated $100,000 to the Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom campaign, according to campaign finance records cited by Politico.

Activision did not return a request for comment by Wasserman on the report.

State and federal regulators have expanded their investigations 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 in July 2021 and tried to block an $18 million settlement between Activision and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that the settlement could damage its case against the company. A federal judge denied the DFEH’s efforts and approved the settlement last month.

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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.