Activision Blizzard said Thursday that an internal investigation found there was “no evidence” that senior executives ignored or attempted to conceal reports of sexual harassment at the Santa Monica-based video game publisher, while also disputing that “there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation” at the company.
The “Call of Duty” developer did acknowledge that there were “some substantiated instances of gender harassment” at the company, it said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commssion. It added, however, that those instances “do not support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the board [of directors] were aware of and tolerated gender harassment.”
The findings run counter to a bombshell Wall Street Journal report that claimed Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew of and failed to report allegations of rape, sexual assault and workplace misconduct to the company’s board of directors. The report prompted walkouts by Activision employees, many of whom joined Activision investors in calling for Kotick’s resignation.
Since then, Kotick has arranged for Activision to be acquired by tech giant Microsoft in a $69 billion transaction that would be the video game industry’s largest-ever merger. Activision has also faced multiple sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits from current and former employees, with such claims also being investigated by regulators at both the state and federal level.
On Thursday, Activision said that it had hired Gilbert Casellas, a former chair of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to investigate the allegations against the company. The EEOC is the same agency that struck an $18 million settlement with Activision last fall over the claims.
Casellas’ review “concluded that there was no widespread harassment, pattern or practice of harassment, or systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard or at any of its business units” from September 2016 through December 2021, the company said. Additionally, Casellas “concluded that, based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard,” which currently employs roughly 10,000 people worldwide and said it has employed over 25,000 in the last decade.
Activision also took aim at “an unrelenting barrage of media criticism that attempts to paint the entire company (and many innocent employees) with the stain of a very small portion of our employee population who engaged in bad behavior and were disciplined for it.” It also labeled the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s ongoing lawsuit against it as “highly inflammatory” and containing “made-for-press allegations,” and criticized the department’s “efforts to interfere with the EEOC settlement.”
Activision workers’ advocacy group ABetterABK criticized the company’s findings in an extensive Twitter thread on Thursday, describing them as “tone deaf” and taking particular aim at Kotick’s prior actions.
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