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Report: Kotick knew about sexual misconduct at Activision Blizzard

Report: Kotick knew about sexual misconduct at Activision Blizzard

The CEO of US games giant Activision Blizzard, Robert Kotick, was aware of sexual misconduct at the company.

That's according to reporting from The Wall Street Journal, which says that the exec not only knew about instances of harassment and abuse under his watch, but had also been accused of similar behaviour himself.

Kotick apparently knew about allegations levelled against Dan Bunting, the co-head of Call of Duty maker Treyarch, back in 2017. Not only was this investigated, WSJ claims that Kotick overruled an HR decision to have Bunting fired. Bunting has since left Treyarch following the Wall Street Journal publishing its report.

If that wasn't enough, Blizzard CTO Ben Kilgore was allegedly fired after being accused of sexual harassment. This didn't stop then Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime sending around an internal email praising Kilgore for his contributions.

Kotick apparently did not inform Activision Blizzard's board about these allegations and settlements. After California's Department of Fair Employment (DFEH) sued the firm in July, he also reportedly told his colleagues he did not know about them. This could definitely put the CEO in a sticky position when it comes to the SEC's investigation into Activision Blizzard.

Kotick has also been accused of harassment. In 2006, it's claimed that he threatened one of his assistants with death, which resulted in an out of court settlement. The following year, he was accused of sexual harassment by a flight attendant on a private jet he co-owned, resulting in a $200,000 payment following arbitration.

Since Activision Blizzard was sued by DFEH in July, over 500 reports of harassment, abuse, discrimination and other misconduct have been submitted, too. Meanwhile, former Blizzard co-head Jen Oneal apparently left due to realising that Activision Blizzard was never going to be able to fix its culture issues. Furthermore, it has emerged that she was being paid less than her fellow co-head Mike Ybarra and says that she had been "tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against."

In response to the article, Activision Blizzard published the following statement to its investor relations portal.

"We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal's report, which presents an inaccurate and misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon," the firm wrote.

"The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry's most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their -- and our -- values. The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick's direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team."


PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site PCGamesInsider.biz. In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for GamesIndustry.biz, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.

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