Activision Blizzard lawsuit: a timeline of key events and everything you need to know

Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind World of Warcraft, Diablo and Call of Duty, is being sued by The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing following a two-year investigation into the company’s alleged discrimination against female employees.

The suit claims that Activision Blizzard fosters a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture”, with female employees at the company subjected to constant sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, as well as lower pay and lower opportunity levels than their male peers. 

Below, we’ve put together a timeline of the key developments since the Activision Blizzard lawsuit was filed, with most recent updates listed first, to help give you the full picture of the actions and statements of the publisher.  We will update this timeline as more details emerge. 

Content warning: the article below contains information that some readers may find upsetting including mentions of suicide, discrimination sexual harassment and assault.

August 3 - Investor files class action lawsuit

As reported by Bloomberg Law, an Activision Blizzard investor files a class-action lawsuit against the company for "violations of the federal securities law". Specifically named in the suit are Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Durkin, and former Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann.

The suit claims that Activision Blizzard was not transparent with shareholders about The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's two-year investigation into the company, which serves as evidence in the agency's suit against Activision Blizzard. The suit claims that, as a result, shareholders suffered monetary damages when the suit was filed and share prices for Activision Blizzard suffered a "precipitous decline in the market value".

The filing states the following:

"This is a class action on behalf of persons or entities who purchased or otherwise acquired publicly traded Activision Blizzard securities between August 4, 2016 and July 27, 2021, inclusive (the “Class Period”). Plaintiff seeks to recover compensable damages caused by Defendants’ violations of the federal securities laws under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”)."

The suit includes excerpts from Activision Blizzard 10-K reports between 2016 and 2021, which include disclosures about "routine" legal claims. In reference to these claims, the suit claims:

"The statements contained in ¶¶16-30 were materially false and/or misleading because they misrepresented and failed to disclose the following adverse facts pertaining to the Company’s business, operations and prospects, which were known to Defendants or recklessly disregarded by them. Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: 

"(1) Activision Blizzard discriminated against women and minority employees; 

"(2) Activision Blizzard fostered a pervasive “frat boy” workplace culture that continues to thrive; 

"(3) numerous complaints about unlawful harassment, discrimination, and retaliation were made to human resources (“HR”) personnel and executives which went unaddressed; 

"(4) the pervasive culture of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation would result in serious impairments to Activision Blizzard’s operations; 

"(5) as a result of the foregoing, the Company was at greater risk of regulatory and legal scrutiny and enforcement, including that which would have a material adverse effect; 

"(6) Activision Blizzard failed to inform shareholders that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) had been investigating Activision Blizzard for harassment and discrimination; and 

"(7) as a result, Defendants’ statements about Activision Blizzard’s business, operations, and prospects, were materially false and misleading and/or lacked a reasonable basis at all relevant times."

The suit states:

"Defendants acted with scienter in that they knew that the public documents and statements issued or disseminated in the name of Activision Blizzard were materially false and misleading; knew that such statements or documents would be issued or disseminated to the investing public; and knowingly and substantially participated, or acquiesced in the issuance or dissemination of such statements or documents as primary violations of the securities laws. These Defendants by virtue of their receipt of information reflecting the true facts of Activision Blizzard, their control over, and/or receipt and/or modification of Activision Blizzard’s allegedly materially misleading statements, and/or their associations with the Company which made them privy to confidential proprietary information concerning Activision Blizzard, participated in the fraudulent scheme alleged herein."

The suit continues:

"As a result of the foregoing, the market price of Activision Blizzard securities was artificially inflated during the Class Period. In ignorance of the falsity of Defendants’ statements, Plaintiff and the other members of the Class relied on the statements described above and/or the integrity of the market price of Activision Blizzard securities during the Class Period in purchasing Activision Blizzard securities at prices that were artificially inflated as a result of Defendants’ false and misleading statements."

"Had Plaintiff and the other members of the Class been aware that the market price of Activision Blizzard securities had been artificially and falsely inflated by Defendants’ misleading statements and by the material adverse information which Defendants did not disclose, they would not have purchased Activision Blizzard securities at the artificially inflated prices that they did, or at all.

"As a result of the wrongful conduct alleged herein, Plaintiff and other members of the Class have suffered damages in an amount to be established at trial."

August 3 - Bloomberg reports Blizzard's Senior Vice President of HR has left the company

Bloomberg reports that Blizzard's Senior Vice President for Global HR, Jesse Meschuk has also left the company. The report is corroborated by PC Gamer.

August 3 - Activision Blizzard second-quarter 2021 financial results press release includes statement

A press release issued following Activision Blizzard's second-quarter earnings call includes a section titled 'Commitment to a Safe Working Environment'. The section includes a statement from Activision Blizzard, which reads as follows: 

"Following serious allegations regarding the company’s employment, compensation and workplace practices, Activision Blizzard is taking swift action to ensure a safe and welcoming work environment for all employees. We have engaged a law firm 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. We will be adding additional staff to our Compliance and Employee Relations teams, strengthening our capabilities in investigating employee concerns. We are creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for employees to speak out and share areas for improvements. We will be evaluating managers and leaders across the company with respect to their compliance with our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences. And we will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions. The leadership of the company is committed to creating the most welcoming, comfortable, and safe culture possible."

August 3 - Activision Blizzard CEO issues statement during second-quarter earnings call

At the beginning of Activision Blizzard's second-quarter earnings call, CEO Bobby Kotick issues the following statement addressing the lawsuit: 

"I want to start by making clear to everyone that there is no place at our company where discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind will be tolerated nowhere. We so appreciate the current and former employees who have come forward in past and recent days with courage.

"And I want to reiterate the commitments we have made to you. Our work environment everywhere we operate will not permit discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment. We will be the company that sets the example for this in our industry. While we’ve taken many steps towards this objective already, today, we are taking even more. Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been named new co-leads of Blizzard.

"Jen has been with the company for 18 years. She’s the former head of our studio Vicarious Visions and most recently had production and development oversight for our Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Mike has been in our industry for over 20 years, including leadership roles within Microsoft Xbox division and at Blizzard as General Manager of Battle.net.

"I’m also pleased to have Allen Adham here today. As most of you know, Allen is one of the founders of Blizzard. After a 12-year hiatus, Allen returned to Blizzard to lead our new product and new IP incubation efforts. Each of these individuals brings vast industry experience and tremendous integrity to their roles. They are the very best examples of leadership with character and accountability. I’m confident this team will ensure that Blizzard provides the welcoming, comfortable and safe workplace that is essential to foster creativity and inspiration.

"In addition, we’ll continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. And to strengthen our capabilities in this area, we’ll be adding additional staff and resources. People will be held accountable for their actions. That commitment means that we will not just terminate employees where appropriate, but we’ll also terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.

"Because our work cannot be successful with diverse voices, views and talents, we made a commitment to consider diverse slates of candidates for all open positions. And we’ll continue to add resources to ensure this occurs throughout the company. Over the past several years, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture, reflect more diversity within our leadership teams and create environments conducive to reporting any type of misconduct. We’ve amplified internal programs that encourage employees to report violations. We’ve reinforced channels for employees to voice concerns in confidential and safe ways without any fear of retaliation. We’re directing additional resources to our compliance and employee relations teams dedicated to investigating complaints.

"We pride ourselves on paying our employees competitively and fairly for equal or substantially similar work. We regularly review our compensation to ensure that we remain equitable in our approach. We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors such as performance, role and expertise. And we conduct extensive antidiscrimination trainings, including for all employees involved in the compensation process.

"Our workplace initiatives are crucial to our continued success and our leadership in this effort is my priority. Our workplace safety also remains our priority. And as we consider our return to work initiatives, we remain focused on providing the very best health care for our employees and their families.

"You have my unwavering commitment that we will continue to focus on serving our players and delivering the sustainable growth that you’ve come to expect and we will take all necessary actions to foster a culture that is supportive and welcoming for all of our employees. And we expect to be the very best example for other companies to emulate."

Activision Blizzard President  and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre follows Kotick's comments, stating:

"I’d like to underscore the points that Bobby made regarding the company’s commitment to ensuring the very best work environment. The leadership team and I will do our utmost to make sure that we’re always improving and building the kind of inclusive workplace that is essential to enable creativity and professional growth for all employees. There will be no tolerance at our company for harassment or unequal treatment of any kind. Our continued strong performance is because of the efforts of our incredibly talented people and we will make certain the workplace facilitates the best possible performance through constant improvement to our culture and unwavering conviction to our values."

During the Q&A section of the call, Matthew Cost, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, asks:

"We’ve seen a lot of headlines about the lawsuit and employee concerns. Can you talk more about what you’ve been doing and will do to address those issues? And then, just secondly, can you expand on any expected impact to productivity as you work through the situation and do you expect any impact on the pipeline?"

In response, Alegre states:

"As you heard from Bobby, our employees are truly our greatest asset. And we remain absolutely focused as a leadership team on providing a diverse and a safe environment for our teams and have taken a number of actions thus far. For instance, we’ve engaged an outside law firm to conduct a review of our policies and procedures with respect to our workplace and where employees can connect if they have experienced any issues whatsoever.

"We will also be adding staff to our compliance and employee relations teams that investigate employee concerns. This is to ensure that we are always considering also diverse candidates for all open positions. As a leader myself, I know how important having a diverse workforce can be for all aspects of our business. And this is critical. We will be evaluating and training also our people managers to make sure they are complying with our processes for handling employee concerns as well as taking the right actions. And we are proactively engaging with our employees to hear and respond to their feedback.

"For several years now, we have been focused on ensuring more diversity throughout the company, especially in our leadership roles and have dramatically increased the number of women and minorities in both the C-suite and in our business units. And our compensation practice is that women and men are paid equitably for equal work. As you heard, we’ve appointed Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra as the new co-leads at Blizzard and I am so glad that an original Blizzard founder, Allen Adham, who returned to the company a few years ago, continues to lead our engagement projects. We have a great leadership at Blizzard and are excited about the new direction the company will take.

"Also, we’re committed to an equitable and safe work environment. And that’s what’s important. As we evolve our company, you should expect further announcements from us going forward. To answer your question on productivity and pipeline, as you heard today, the pipeline is progressing well. In particular, some of the content in the pipeline has been in development for many years and is approaching the final stages of production. We’re monitoring the impact of recent events obviously as we discuss today, but based on what we see currently, we have a strong lineup planned for the second half of the year. And as we look into 2022, we’re currently planning for several new titles across PC, console and mobile from Blizzard, alongside more great experiences from Call of Duty, Candy and Warcraft."

Andrew Uerkwitz, an analyst at Jefferies, also asks about the lawsuit. 

"It’s great to hear kind of the color around the policies and procedures and creating safe workplaces and whatnot. However, I’m sure morale is low. So I’m just curious how Mike and Jen plan to kind of rekindle the pride that Blizzard has been known for and kind of just rebuild that morale. But also kind of at the same time, as you kind of listen to everyone’s stories and experiences and make the necessary changes, how does that not affect production going forward?"

In response, Jennifer Oneal, Executive Vice President of Development and now co-leader of Activision Blizzard, states:

"First off, there’s nothing more important to me than our people. And I know Mike Ybarra, who is partnering with me to lead Blizzard, feels exactly the same. Since I joined the studio at the beginning of the year, I’ve had the privilege of working closer with the Diablo and Overwatch teams. I’m seeing great progress on Overwatch 2 and the multiple games in the Diablo Universe. I am constantly inspired by our talented teams, their creative vision, their commitment to putting gameplay first. Our people are passionate about our games. They understand our players and, in many cases, they have come from the player communities themselves and naturally are driven to serve them.

"And as Bobby and Daniel have mentioned, we are expanding these teams. We’re doubling down on our development recruiting as we expand the scope and vision of our franchises. When we come together, we make some of the best games in the industry. And we’re now seeing that energy apply to our culture, which is equally important. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but the passion and productivity are already here. And when our people feel safe and supported, the rest is going to take care of itself."

J.Allen Brack, who has just left his position as Blizzard Entertainment President, then states:

"The passion that our developers have for innovation and creativity is what makes Blizzard great. It’s why we’ve been able to make so many great games for 30 years now. And this has always been the vision since the very beginning. I’m excited about our future about the things we’re creating together, about building the new culture and renewing that spirit. We’re tightlipped about it, but our new game pipeline has been in development for many years. And it’s greater than it’s ever been across our core franchises and mobile, new IP and new genres. I’m looking forward to our teams launching their already announced new games in the not-too-distant future and in due course announcing a few new ones that you have yet to hear about."  

August 3 - Blizzard Entertainment President leaves company

Activision Blizzard President and Chief Operating Officer Daniel Alegre sends a letter to all employees announcing that Blizzard Entertainment President  J. Allen Brack is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities". Brack is one of the Activision Blizzard executives named in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's lawsuit. The letter reveals that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard.

"I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.

"Many of us already know Mike and Jen and have experienced their leadership, their empathy and their unwavering sense of accountability:

"Jen is an 18-year company veteran and the former head of Vicarious Visions studio. As Executive Vice President of Development at Blizzard, she has been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises.

"Mike has been in the technology and gaming industries for over 20 years, including 7 years as a senior executive at Microsoft’s XBOX division. Most recently Mike was Executive Vice President & General Manager of Platform and Technology at Blizzard overseeing Battle.net and our Development Services organizations.

"With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence.

"With Jen and Mike assuming their new roles, J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to pursue new opportunities.

"Daniel"

In addition to the publishing of the letter sent to employees, a post is published on the official Blizzard website which is addressed to "all members of the Blizzard Community". The full post reads as follows:

"To all members of the Blizzard Community, 

 "We want to let you know about an important leadership change at Blizzard Entertainment. 

 "Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be stepping down as the leader of the studio, and Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will co-lead Blizzard moving forward. 

"Jen joined Blizzard in January as executive vice president of development, where she’s been providing senior development leadership and support to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises. Jen is the former head of Vicarious Visions (which is now part of Blizzard Entertainment).

"After many years at XBOX, Mike joined the company in 2019 as the executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology, where he’s been overseeing the evolution of Battle.net and our development services organization.

"Jen and Mike have more than three decades of gaming industry experience between them. Moving forward, they will share responsibilities over game development and company operations. 

"Both leaders are deeply committed to all of our employees; to the work ahead to ensure Blizzard is the safest, most welcoming workplace possible for women, and people of any gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or background; to upholding and reinforcing our values; and to rebuilding your trust. With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion, and a dedication to excellence. You’ll hear more from Jen and Mike soon. 

"The following is a message from J. Allen Brack:

'I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.'

"Finally, thank you all for being a part of the Blizzard community, and for your passion and determination for safety and equality for all."

July 30 - Further reports

Media publications, such as IGN and Vice, conduct interviews with sources claimed to be former and current employees, as well as accounts that corroborate the experience of sexual harassment from Activision Blizzard and its employees. These reports are outside the official lawsuit.

July 30 - Ubisoft open letter group issue "final response"

The Ubisoft group that organized the open letter in solidarity with Activision Blizzard staff responds to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot's internal email from July 29. In a "final response" issued to GamesIndustry.biz, the group states that the "majority" of its demands were "sidelined" and "few of our points seem to have been addressed". 

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, the group states:

"We are aware that the company has made some improvements, and we are happy to hear that Yves and the leadership team agree that it is not enough. However, Ubisoft continues to protect and promote known offenders and their allies. We see management continuing to avoid this issue. It is also worth clarifying that an invitation to reach out to company management personally is not the same as having a collective seat at the table."

The group also tells the publication it "[looks] forward to a full response".

Another member of the group tells GamesIndustry.biz the following:

"Even though change has been happening and there seems to be a major restructuring happening internally, it's hypocritical of management to say that they're working on it while still harboring, protecting, permitting, and shuffling around known toxic and abusive people to other positions of power. Morale and trust is low.

"It's exhausting, frustrating and it counters the messaging they give us. We cannot be happy or satisfied with this hypocrisy. For the one person who signed there are countless others who simply were too terrified. Do better or keep losing good people."

July 29 - Ubisoft CEO responds to open letter

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot responds to the open letter from Ubisoft staff from the day before (which has now been signed by over 1000 current and former employees). In an internal email to staff, obtained by Axios, Guillemot states: "We have heard clearly from this letter that not everyone is confident in the processes that have been put in place to manage misconduct reports". The full statement is included below.

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July 29, 2021 - Shareholders investigate Activision Blizzard amidst lawsuit

In a note shared on BusinessWire, shareholder rights law firm Robbins LLP is investigating Activision Blizzard “to determine whether certain Activision officers and directors violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and breached their fiduciary duties to the company”.

Activision Blizzard shares have dropped by as much as 7% since the lawsuit was filed.

July 28, 2021-  Kotaku’s “Cosby Suite” report

A Kotaku report shares further information on the “Cosby Suite” mentioned in the lawsuit. Based on photographs and Facebook posts obtained by the publication, the report claims that “people beyond Alex Afrasiabi were aware of the ‘Cosby Suite’ mentioned in the lawsuit”. 

Kotaku reports that the “Cosby Suite” was the name given to Afrasiabi’s BlizzCon 2013 hotel room and that the suite was a “meeting place where many, including Afrasiabi, would pose with an actual portrait of Bill Cosby while smiling”. 

According to Kotaku, the captions and comments on these social media images “are both written by and refer by name to other Blizzard employees”, with one ex-Blizzard source telling the publication that an HR representative is present in one of the hotel room images.

Another image obtained by Kotaku shows a screenshot from a 2013 group chat called the “BlizzCon Cosby Crew”.

“In it, former Blizzard designer David Kosak writes, “I am gathering the hot chixx for the Coz.”,” Kotaku reports. “‘Bring em,’ replies Afrasiabi. ‘You can’t marry ALL of them Alex,”’ Kosak writes. ‘I can, I’m middle eastern,’ responds Afrasiabi. Jesse McCree, currently a lead game designer at Blizzard, then writes, ‘You misspelled f***.’”

Kotaku reports that the images it obtained are part of “a series of screenshots depicting a wide array of Facebook posts by Afrasiabi, all under a 2013 photo album”. 

When asked about the “Cosby Suite images” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard tells Kotaku:  “An employee brought these 2013 events to our attention in June 2020. We immediately conducted our own investigation and took corrective action. At the time of the report, we had already conducted a separate investigation of Alex Afrasiabi and terminated him for his misconduct in his treatment of other employees.

Kotaku approached Afrasiabi for comment but did not receive a response. Riot Games’ Greg Street, one member of the group chat, released a statement.

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July 28, 2021-  Ubisoft employees sign letter of support

Nearly 500 Ubisoft employees from 32 studios sign an open letter in support of the Activision Blizzard walkout. 

The open letter was shared with Axios and establishes solidarity with Activision Blizzard employees while criticizing Ubisoft’s handling of the company’s own sexual misconduct allegations which were reported last year. 

The letter calls for steps to be taken to prevent a “deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviors within the industry”.

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In response to the letter, Ubisoft issued a statement to Axios saying:

"We have carefully read the letter signed by former and current Ubisoft employees," Ubisoft said. "We have a deep respect for the engagement of our teams who are pushing for changes within our industry. We want to be very clear that we take this letter—and the issues it raises—very seriously. Over the past year, we have committed to engaging with our employees to enact fundamental changes. Many of these changes have been driven by internal feedback and insights shared by our teams and we are grateful for this ongoing communication.

"Ubisoft has made significant and meaningful changes that seek to create a safe and inclusive work environment for all, and there is still more work to be done. We absolutely stand behind these efforts and the positive impact they have had on our company culture while also recognizing that we must continue to engage with our employees to ensure we are creating a workplace where they feel valued, supported, and most importantly, safe."

July 28, 2021 - Activision blizzard employees walk out and respond to CEO letter

Activision Blizzard employees walk out in protest of the lawsuit, with some protesting at the gates of the company’s Irvine headquarters. Employees' demands are shared on social media with #ActiBlizzWalkout, with trends worldwide.

The protest organizers also released a statement in response to CEO Bobby Kotick’s email from the previous day claiming it “fails to address critical elements”.

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July 27, 2021 - World of Warcraft team to  “remove references that are not appropriate” 

The World of Warcraft team publishes a post on the World of Warcraft forums announcing it will be removing “references that are not appropriate” from the game world. 

It’s unclear what these references are but some World of Warcraft players have been calling for the removal of references to ex-Senior Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, who is named in the lawsuit. 

Afrasiabi has multiple characters and items named after him in World of Warcraft, including a quest-giver called Field Marshal Afrasiabi. It’s unclear if the statement refers to these references at present. The full statement reads:

“It was clear from our team conversations that we wanted to put forth a statement that was representative of the World of Warcraft team’s sentiments. We asked all members of our team to send us their suggestions and feedback on how best to address the community and this is the result.

“The past days have been a time of reflection for the World of Warcraft team, spent in conversation and contemplation, full of sadness, pain, and anger, but also hope and resolve. 

"As we heed the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences, we stand committed to taking the actions necessary to ensure we are providing an inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment both for our team and for our players in Azeroth. 

"Those of us in leadership understand that it is not our place to judge when we have achieved our goals, but rather for our team and our community to let us know when we still have more to do.   

“While we turn to our team for guidance in our internal work to protect marginalized groups and hold accountable those who threaten them, we also want to take immediate action in Azeroth to remove references that are not appropriate for our world. 

"This work has been underway, and you will be seeing several such changes to both Shadowlands and WoW Classic in the coming days.   

“We know that in order to rebuild trust, we must earn it with our actions in the weeks and months to come. But we go forward knowing that we share the same vision as our community about creating a place where people of all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds can thrive and proudly call home.”

July 27, 2021- Activision CEO apologizes for “tone deaf” response

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick issues a statement to employees apologizing for the company’s “tone deaf” response to the lawsuit and announces that WilmerHale has been hired to conduct a review into the company’s internal practices and policies. The full statement reads below:

“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:

“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.

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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

July 27, 2021- Activision Blizzard employees organize a walkout 

In support of the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard employees announce they’re conducting a walkout (both physical and virtual) on July 28. The organizers released a full statement to Polygon:

“Given last week’s statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, and the many stories shared by current and former employees of Activision Blizzard since, we believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

“As current Activision Blizzard employees, we are holding a walkout to call on the executive leadership team to work with us on the following demands, in order to improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups.

“1. An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.

“2. The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.

“3. Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.

“4. Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK’s reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.”

July 26, 2021- Activision Blizzard employees sign an open letter supporting lawsuit

Bloomberg reports that more than 2,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees have signed an open letter calling the company’s responses to the lawsuit “abhorrent and insulting”.

The full letter reads as follows:

“To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,

“We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

“We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.

“Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action -- and the troubling official responses that followed -- we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.

“We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees -- as well as our community -- have a safe place to speak out and come forward.

“We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.”

July 25, 2021 - Work on WoW stops

World of Warcraft Senior System Designer Jeff Hamilton tweets that production on World of Warcraft has stopped as a result of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit.

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July 23 - Frances Townsend steps down as the executive sponsor of the Activision-Blizzard-King Women’s Network

Activision Blizzard Chief Compliance Officer, Frances Townsend, holds a listening session via Zoom with women at Blizzard. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson confirms to The Washington Post that, on the same day as the call, Townsend steps down as executive sponsor of the Activision-Blizzard-King Women’s Network.

July 22, 2021- Blizzard Activision President emails staff

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack sends out an email to Activision Blizzard staff addressing the allegations from the lawsuit. It is obtained by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier who publishes it on July 23.

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July 22, 2021- Blizzard Activision executive emails staff

Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend also sends out an internal email to Activision Blizzard staff, which is again obtained by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier and published on July 23.

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July 21, 2021- Bloomberg report and Activision Blizzard statement

Bloomberg Law reports that Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Activision Blizzard releases a statement on the lawsuit to Bloomberg Law and other publications. The statement reads as follows:

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.

“The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. 

"They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court. 

"We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. 

"While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is, unfortunately, an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

“The picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today. Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams. 

"We’ve amplified internal programs and channels for employees to report violations, including the “ASK List” with a confidential integrity hotline, and introduced an Employee Relations team dedicated to investigating employee concerns. 

"We have strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and combined our Employee Networks at a global level, to provide additional support. Employees must also undergo regular anti-harassment training and have done so for many years.

“We put tremendous effort in creating fair and rewarding compensation packages and policies that reflect our culture and business, and we strive to pay all employees fairly for equal or substantially similar work. 

"We take a variety of proactive steps to ensure that pay is driven by non-discriminatory factors. For example, we reward and compensate employees based on their performance, and we conduct extensive anti-discrimination trainings including for those who are part of the compensation process.

“We are confident in our ability to demonstrate our practices as an equal opportunity employer that fosters a supportive, diverse, and inclusive workplace for our people, and we are committed to continuing this effort in the years to come. 

"It is a shame that the DFEH did not want to engage with us on what they thought they were seeing in their investigation.”

July 20, 2021 - Lawsuit filed

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing files a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard Inc following a two-year investigation into the company’s alleged discrimination against female employees.

The suit claims that Activision Blizzard fosters a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture”, with female employees at the company subjected to constant sexual harassment and retaliation, as well as lower pay and lower opportunity levels than their male peers, forcing “many women” to leave the company.

The suit describes so-called “cube crawls” in which male employees drink “copious amounts of alcohol” and then proceed to “crawl” through various office cubicles, allegedly often engaging in “inappropriate behavior” towards female employees. 

The suit also claims that male employees often come into work hungover and play video games, delegating their work to female employees while engaging in banter about their sexual encounters, talking openly about female bodies and joking about rape. 

The suit claims that this “frat boy culture” is a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”, with female Activision Blizzard employees continually having to fend off sexual advancements and comments made by their co-workers and superiors and being groped at the aforementioned “cube crawls”, citing high-ranking executives and creators allegedly engage in this sexual harassment without repercussion. 

The suit uses the example of a female employee who committed suicide on a business trip with a male colleague, following intense sexual harassment at the company - which included having nude photos of her passed around at a company party.

According to the suit, Activision Blizzard did not take steps to prevent harassment, discrimination or retaliation. The suit claims that female employees were discouraged from reporting issues to HR as human resource personnel were allegedly close to the perpetrators and so complaints were dismissed and not kept confidential. 

As a result of these complaints, the suit claims that female employees faced retaliation from perpetrators that included being transferred to different units, deprived from work projects and selected for layoffs. 

In another example of sexual harassment, the suit claims that Alex Afrasiabi, former Senior Creative Director at World of Warcraft, was permitted to engage in “blatant sexual harassment” with no repercussions. 

Afrasiabi allegedly made unwanted advances to female employees, tried to kiss them and would tell them he wanted to marry them. The suit also claims that Afrasiabi was “so known to engage in harassment of females” that his suite at BlizzCon was dubbed the “Cosby Suite” after the disgraced Bill Cosby (whose conviction of sexual assault has since been overturned).

Other allegations in the suit include women being denied promotion in case they became pregnant, derogatory name-calling, being criticized for collecting children from child care, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could have meetings. 

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is demanding a jury trial and is seeking an injunction forcing compliance with workplace protections, as well as unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees. 

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