Activision Blizzard shareholder hits out at "inadequate" response to discrimination lawsuit

"Review by WilmerHale is deficient in a number of ways."

An Activision Blizzard shareholder has hit out at the company's response to the recent discrimination lawsuit.

As reported by Axios, SOC Investment Group's executive director Dieter Waizeneggar issued a letter to Activision Blizzard's lead independant director Robert J. Morgado, criticising the steps the company has said it is taking to address the ongoing culture crisis.

Last week, Activision Blizzard executives such as boss Bobby Kotick insisted "we will be the company that sets the example for this in our industry".

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Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick.

The State of California sued Activision Blizzard over what it alleges to be a "frat boy" culture that created "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women".

The lawsuit alleges a culture of "constant sexual harassment", mainly at Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.

A coalition of workers from across multiple Activision Blizzard studios, collectively called the ABK Workers Alliance, has already criticised the decision to hire WilmerHale - the same law firm helping Amazon keep its workers from unionising - to review the company.

While SOC is a shareholder in Activision Blizzard, it also sets out to hold corporations and their executives accountable for irresponsible and unethical corporate behaviour and excessive executive pay. Most recently, SOC, formerly known as CtW, encouraged Activision Blizzard shareholders to vote against Kotick's $155m pay package.

Now, it's putting pressure on the company again, saying recent promises to improve do not go "nearly far enough to address the deep and widespread issues with equity, inclusion, and human capital management".

Specifically, SOC said no changes had been announced regarding executive pay, and echoed the ABK Workers Alliance's criticism of the decision to hire WilmerHale to investigate. "This firm has a sterling reputation as a defender of the wealthy and connected, but it has no track record of uncovering wrongdoing, the lead investigator does not have in-depth experience investigating workplace harassment and abuse, and the scope of the investigation fails to address the full range of equity issues Mr. Kotick acknowledges," Waizeneggar wrote.

SOC called on Activision Blizzard to instead undertake a company-wide equity review that would encompass the full range of concerns.

"At this critical juncture in Activision Blizzard's history, we urge you and the board to push beyond the inadequate response from management and take the steps necessary to protect our investment from the financial, operational, and reputational risks that have come to the fore over the past week," Waizeneggar said.

More than 2000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed a petition calling the company's initial response to the recent discrimination lawsuit "abhorrent and insulting". Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick later issued a statement calling this initial response "tone deaf".

Last week it was revealed under fire Activision Blizzard chief compliance officer Frances Townsend had stepped down from the company's women's network. Townsend remains at Activision Blizzard as chief compliance officer.

Activision Blizzard must now either respond to the lawsuit's claims within 30 days of being served, or question a procedural aspect of the case. If a judge lets the case proceed, we're looking at the discovery process before the judge decides if the case warrants going to trial.

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About the author

Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Editor  |  wyp100

Wesley is Eurogamer's editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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