Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, allegedly knew “for years” about the sexual misconduct that led to the company being sued by the State of California.
An article from Wall Street Journal alleges that Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, was aware of the sexual misconduct happening throughout the company, a claim that Kotick himself has refuted in a new statement.
In his statement, Kotick says the article “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership”, while the Activision Blizzard board has released a statement saying it is confident that Kotick “appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
The gaming behemoths were sued by the State of California in June 2021, for fostering a “pervasive frat-boy culture” within the workplace. Following this, officials claimed that the company had shredded documents pertaining to the lawsuit.
Kotick has since been under scrutiny despite accepting a million-dollar pay cut in response to the ongoing issues, but WSJ reports that he knew about the issues and did nothing.
Activision Blizzard CEO under fire
Kotick allegedly claimed to company officials that “he wasn’t aware of many of the allegations of misconduct” and that he is “very committed to making sure we have the most welcoming, most inclusive workplace in the industry.”
Former Blizzard Co-Leader, Jen Oneal, has called this into question, however, in an email reportedly sent to Activision’s legal team and shared with the Wall Street Journal. She claims that she was the victim of sexual abuse at the company, writing that “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.”
She goes on to allege that she went to “a party for an Activision development studio she attended with Mr. Kotick around 2007 in which scantily clad women danced on stripper poles. At the same party, a DJ encouraged female attendees to drink more so the men would have a better time, according to another person who was present.”
Also according to the Wall Street Journal, at a different event, another employee allegedly accused co-head of Activision’s Treyarch studio, Dan Bunting, of sexually harassing her. Activision Blizzard reportedly decided “not to terminate Mr. Bunting, but instead to impose other disciplinary measures.” He then apparently left the company following WSJ enquires.
Update – Friday, December 24: Representation for Mr. Bunting has told Dexerto that “no such allegation” was ever made, and that “his departure resulted from unlawful actions by the company.”
Kotick has apparently denied these events, noting that “if there are experiences people have in the workplace that make them uncomfortable, we’re much more adept at being able to respond to those.”
Despite this, the CEO continues to come under fire for supposedly ignoring complaints. In 2020 a group of 30 female employees reportedly filed a report regarding harassment in the workplace, that Kotick was apparently aware of.
His own behavior has also been called into question following an incident that allegedly occurred on his private jet in 2007. In the WSJ report, a flight attendant claims she was fired after being sexually assaulted by the aircraft’s pilot. Kotick apparently told the woman and her attorneys that “I’m going to destroy you” when she decided to sue, and the issue was settled in 2008 with a $200,000 settlement.
Kotick responds to WSJ allegations
In a November 16 blog post, Activision Blizzard have shared the transcript of a video message from Kotick to the company’s staff.
Noting that “there’s an article today [November 16] that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership,” he goes on to state that “anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.”
“As I have made clear, we are moving forward with a new zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior — and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable… Over the last few years, our industry has had an uncomfortable spotlight that’s been illuminating opportunities for us to change. And we must all, including me, embrace this need for change, so we can bring our very best selves to the very best place to work.”
Activision board backs Kotick after allegations
The Activision Blizzard Board of Directors released a statement hours after Kotick responded to allegations that arose from the investigative report.
“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry,” they said. “Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership, the Company is already implementing industry-leading changes including a zero-tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce, and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.
“The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”