Last November, The Wall Street Journal published a damning report alleging that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick withheld information about harassment allegations from his board of directors. The report also suggested that Activision executives failed to act decisively to address the kind of widespread complaints contained in a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit filed last July.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Thursday, Activision’s board of directors said the company has concluded its own thorough investigation of those claims, which it says shows that “we are not a company that looks the other way.”
After consulting with external advisers, talking with employees, and reviewing contemporaneous notes, Activision writes “that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported.” The company’s board of directors also didn’t withhold any information from the company, Activision writes.
Activision’s new statement acknowledges “some substantiated instances of gender harassment” that “occurred and were reported.” But Activision adds that those individual experiences of harassment can be “hard to reconcile” with a more collective, data-driven look at how the company is handling harassment as a whole. And valid individual complaints “do not support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the Board were aware of and tolerated gender harassment or that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation,” the company writes.
On the contrary, Activision says that an investigation from outside adviser (and former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman) Gilbert Casellas found that, “based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard.”
“Like any organization that has employed over 25,000 employees over the last decade, Activision Blizzard can always improve,” the company writes. Activision goes on to list internal changes it has made in recent months, including zero-tolerance policies for harassment and alcohol consumption in the workplace and at work events; waiving arbitration for harassment and discrimination claims; and increased investment in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training and compliance teams.
Activision also takes the opportunity in its new filing to call out what it calls “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.” The DFEH complaint that started Activision’s year of bad press contained allegations that were “highly inflammatory” and “made for the press,” the company writes.
In addition to the DFEH lawsuit, Activision still faces a number of suits from shareholders and a reported SEC investigation concerning the company’s alleged failure to share material information surrounding employee misconduct. A separate lawsuit against the company by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was controversially settled for $18 million last September, while a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of an employee who died by suicide was dropped last month.