US federal investigation into game publisher Activision Blizzard

The SEC has launched an investigation into game publisher Activision Blizzard. The SEC is examining, among other things, whether the company has provided investors with timely information about reports of discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace.

CEO Bobby Kotick, among others, would have been summoned, writes The Wall Street Journal. Investigators would like to have insight into his communication about the reports with other seniors within the company. Activision Blizzard has informed the newspaper that it is fully cooperating with the SEC investigation.

This is a civil, not criminal investigation. The SEC wants to find out if information has been withheld that could be important to investors. On its own site, the watchdog writes that investigations “often take months and sometimes years”.

Two years of research

Activision Blizzard is one of the largest game publishers in the world. The company includes well-known games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft on Overwatch. The publisher’s value was estimated at around $70 billion (59 billion euros) in January.

The federal investigation is the next blemish on Activision Blizzard’s now pretty stained blazon. In July, the state of California sued the publisher for discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

A regulator spent two years investigating reports of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees. The indictment states, among other things, that women are paid less than men at the company and that there is a macho culture.

Managers also allegedly harassed women. An employee is said to have committed suicide after having a sexual relationship with a manager. She is said to have done so on a business trip after male colleagues shared nude photos of her.

Measures

After the California indictment, nearly a thousand (former) employees expressed their support for the lawsuit against the company. In addition, several directors left the company in recent months, including those of the leading Blizzard Entertainment. The company also lost about 9 percent in value on the stock market.

In an initial statement, Activision Blizzard said it does not identify with the charges, much to the chagrin of many employees. Topman Kotick came back to this in an internal email a few days later.

He said that employees should have been listened more closely when they expressed their complaints. He also announced a package measures to tackle sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

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