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Activision Blizzard CEO issues new statement on lawsuit, saying initial response was ‘tone deaf’

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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent out a new email internally to the entire company’s staff on July 27 further addressing the harassment lawsuit which surfaced several issues with the company’s culture.

In this new internal email, Activision Blizzard CEO acknowledges that the company’s initial responses to the situation was “tone deaf.”

Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.”

He commits to working with all employees to build a better culture across Activision Blizzard.

His full email is below, shared by Activision Blizzard publicly:

This has been a difficult and upsetting week.

I want to recognize and thank all those who have come forward in the past and in recent days. I so appreciate your courage. Every voice matters – and we will do a better job of listening now, and in the future.

Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf.

It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.

Many of you have told us that active outreach comes from caring so deeply for the Company. That so many people have reached out and shared thoughts, suggestions, and highlighted opportunities for improvement is a powerful reflection of how you care for our communities of colleagues and players – and for each other. 

Ensuring that we have a safe and welcoming work environment is my highest priority. The leadership team has heard you loud and clear.

We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our Company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind.

We will do everything possible to make sure that together, we improve and build the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.

I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. 

The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.

We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at [email protected] or 202-247-2725. 

Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.

We are committed to long-lasting change. 

Effective immediately, we will be taking the following actions:

  1. Employee Support. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and will not hesitate to take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we are adding additional senior staff and other resources to both the Compliance team and the Employee Relations team. 
  2. Listening Sessions. We know many of you have inspired ideas on how to improve our culture. We will be creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for you to speak out and share areas for improvement. 
  3. Personnel Changes. We are immediately evaluating managers and leaders across the Company. Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated. 
  4. Hiring Practices. Earlier this year I sent an email requiring all hiring managers to ensure they have diverse candidate slates for all open positions. We will be adding compliance resources to ensure that our hiring managers are in fact adhering to this directive. 
  5. In-game Changes. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We are removing that content.

Your well-being remains my priority and I will spare no company resource ensuring that our company has the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible.

You have my unwavering commitment that we will improve our company together, and we will be the most inspiring, inclusive entertainment company in the world.

Yours sincerely,

Bobby


This new message comes hours after employees of the company announced they’d stage a walk out on July 28 in protest of the company’s initial response to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit has caused many employees of the company to protest in anger over how executives have handled the situation so far.

It remains to be seen how or if this new statement from Kotick will change employee’s views as time goes on.

Activision Blizzard’s new statement took 6 days since the initial lawsuit (and statement) were released.

We’ll continue to keep everyone updated as the situation continues to unfold.

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Activision Blizzard hires new head of HR as harassment lawsuit scandal continues

Activision Blizzard hires two new executives as fallout over the harassment lawsuit continues.

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Activision Blizzard has announced the hiring of two new senior executives as the company continues to face challenges with the harassment and diversity lawsuit.

The new executives will join later this month, with one coming from The Walt Disney Company, and other from Delta Airlines.

The first new hire is Julie Hodges, who will be joining the company as the Chief People Officer. Hodges worked at The Walt Disney Company for years.

Activision Blizzard says she will be responsible for building and reshaping the company’s corporate HR and people team.

Activision Blizzard’s press release describes her role as:

Ms. Hodges brings more than three decades of global human resources experience in entertainment and an impeccable record of shaping corporate culture. She will be responsible for the company’s global talent organization, making Activision Blizzard the destination for top talent. In her role, she will lead all aspects of human resources, including diversity, equity and inclusion, talent acquisition, employee experience, learning and development, compensation and benefits and workforce planning.

“I can’t think of a better person to join our team and help lead our ongoing commitment to an inclusive workplace,” Kotick said. “Julie is the seasoned leader we need to ensure we are the most inspiring, equitable and emulated entertainment company in the world.”

“I share the company’s belief that a work environment should welcome all perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds,” Hodges said. “A workforce where everyone feels valued is critical to the success of our business, as is a trusting, engaging and safe environment that encourages creativity and innovation and in which all employees can thrive. It takes a collective effort to do this, and I’m looking forward to ensuring that we support the diversity of our talent to bring our people together and continue creating amazing entertainment.”

Per the company’s press release, the current Chief People Officer Claudine Naughton is leaving the company. This comes as Activision Blizzard is engulfed in the harassment and diversity lawsuit scandal in the state of California.

The lawsuit, which first came to light on July 21, has shined a light on many of the incidents that took place at Activision Blizzard – from sexual harassment, in-equality, lack of diversity, and more.

The state of California recently further updated their lawsuit to claim Activision Blizzard’s HR team was shredding documents relevant to their investigation.

Ms. Hodges will start her role on September 21 in a rocky time for the company. Employees continue to demand action and change from the executives, including the removal of arbitration clauses. The employees formed a group recently, A Better ABK, to jointly file a labor suit against the company.

The company said in the press release that these new hires will “help the company build a more inclusive workplace as well as diversify and grow its revenue.”

Activision Blizzard also announced another new executive joining the company. Sandeep Dube will join the company from Delta Airlines as the new Chief Commercial Officer. Dube replaces Armin Zerza’s open role, who was promoted to Chief Financial Officer.

Activision Blizzard press release says Mr. Dube will oversee Activision’s global Sales and Go-To-Market teams. He will be responsible for developing and implementing commercial strategy and delivering on the company’s revenue growth plan.

“Sandeep is a rare leader who not only has the ability to expand our global go-to-market teams, but also bring his diverse experience from an accomplished career to unite our commercial group,” Mr. Kotick said. “Our mission is to connect and engage the world through epic entertainment. While Sandeep connected the world through air travel at Delta, he created a growth-oriented culture that was focused on the very best customer experiences. The innovations he inspired created incredible customer loyalty. We are excited to continue our work on revenue growth with an even greater focus on recognizing and rewarding our players.”

Mr. Dube said, “I couldn’t be more excited to join this team and work together to continue building our inclusive culture and to expand our audiences.”

Dube will start his role on September 27.

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Call of Duty Twitter account trolls banned hacker in new video

Call of Duty took to Twitter recently to show off how effective its anti-cheat system has been recently ahead of its new PC anti-cheat coming in the future.

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warzone artwork

Call of Duty has been affected by hackers for a very long time now, especially within Warzone. However, with the latest updates to the anti-cheat system, it seems the developers have finally got some positive results.

With the announcement of Call of Duty: Vanguard and its integration into Warzone, players were also told that the game would receive a brand new PC anti-cheat system to fend off the hackers who have been causing a great deal of frustration in the community.

Although the developers had been fairly quiet about the hacking situation and issues in Warzone, it seems they have finally got some revenge on cheaters creating as many accounts as they wanted to bypass ban waves.

warzone characters fighting over a loadout drop

Over on Call of Duty’s Twitter, the fan-favorite franchise posted a video of a hacker explaining just how effective the recent upgrades to their anti-cheat system have been.

Originally, hackers have just been able to create new accounts after being banned, allowing them to continue cheating and ruining the game for others. However, a recent video by a player showed that he had been hardware banned and could not play on any accounts on his PC.

This is shown in the video posted by Call of Duty, where a hacker is showing how they are unable to create a new account and use it to cheat: “I’ve been cheating for a little bit, it’s been fun…but every one of my accounts are banned, every single one with even me playing it.”

Although this video was a troll, it is a great way of advertising their anti-cheat strategy to entice players like NICKMERCS back to the game. In recent weeks, many streamers and content creators had been switching over to Apex Legends due to the abundance of hackers in Warzone.

Luckily, it seems the developers have the situation more under control than they have in the past and will be looking to squash the hacking problem completely when the new PC anti-cheat system arrives during the upcoming Call of Duty: Vanguard cycle.

This is a great step for the developers at Call of Duty, as it adds another tool to the list when it comes to preventing cheaters and hackers in Warzone and Multiplayer.

For more on Call of Duty, check out our article on every confirmed change from the Vanguard Alpha.

Image Credits: Activision / Call of Duty

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California updates Activision Blizzard harassment lawsuit, claiming company is ‘shredding’ documents

California state government files updated lawsuit with more claims against Activision Blizzard as investigation continues.

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The California State Government’s DFEH has updated its lawsuit against Activision Blizzard to now include temp-workers’ experience, and also state that the company’s HR is not properly keeping records for their investigation.

First reported by Axios, in an updated filing, the DFEH claims that Activision Blizzard’s HR team is not saving records related to the investigation, which is impeding their ability to move forward.

The initial lawsuit, which was filed on July 21, claimed numerous cases of harassment, inequality, and more took place at Blizzard’s side of Activision Blizzard.

The DFEH states that the company has a policy of “shredding” documents of employees who’ve left the company within 30 days.

The California government requires employers to keep records for up to 2 years. It says, “documents related to investigations and complaints were shredded by human resource personnel.”

Further, the government claims that Activision Blizzard has required employees to sign NDAs, speak internally before contacting the DFEH which is impeding their investigation.

The updated lawsuit also claims that Activision Blizzard adding in a review of the company via WilmerHale law group has further caused issues.

The updated lawsuit claim that these actions “directly interfere” with their ability to “investigate, prosecute, and remedy workplace discrimination and harassment violations on behalf of employees and contingent or temporary workers.”

The new filing also added in mentions that experiences of harassment and inequality “exist for employees and contingent or temporary workers.” The initial lawsuit only covered full time employees.

Following this lawsuit’s update being surfaced, Activision Blizzard responded with a lengthy statement, one that differs in tone from their original attack on the DFEH.

The company claims that they have “complied with every proper request in support” of the DFEH’s review.

Their full statement is below:

“Throughout our engagement with the DFEH, we have complied with every proper request in support of its review even as we had been implementing reforms to ensure our workplaces are welcoming and safe for every employee. Those changes continue today, and include:

  • Several high-level personnel changes;
  • Revamped hiring and recruiting practices requiring diverse interview panels;
  • Greater transparency on pay equity;
  • Expanded and improved training and investigative capabilities for human resource and compliance staff;
  • Created investigation teams outside of business units to support greater independence;
  • Restructured divisions to support greater accountability;
  • Enhanced review processes to include evaluation of managers by employees;
  • Clear boundaries on workplace behavior with a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and other actions that diminish or marginalize.

We strive to be a company that recognizes and celebrates the diverse talents and perspectives that lead to the creation of great, globally appealing entertainment.  

We have provided the DFEH with clear evidence that we do not have gender pay or promotion disparities. Our senior leadership is increasingly diverse, with a growing number of women in key leadership roles across the company.

We share DFEH’s goal of a safe, inclusive workplace that rewards employees equitably and are committed to setting an example that others can follow.”

As more information arises on the lawsuit situation, we’ll keep everyone updated.

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