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 samsonamore@dot.la 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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