‘Nice Quarter, Guys’: Investors Respond to Activision-Blizzard Harassment Lawsuit Plans

The saga continues.

During its second quarterly earnings call today, Activision-Blizzard representatives talked about a bunch of numbers and shit about how they’re doing. But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about how the company is handling the onslaught of controversy following a California lawsuit against the company for its sexist workplace culture.

Prior to the call, a press release from the company included the following statement regarding the state of things:

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.

The call led with a similar statement from Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, as well as recap of today’s news that J. Allen Brack is no longer part of Blizzard, and the company will be led by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra. As for what it’s doing in the immediate future, the company laid out the following actions:

  • “We have asked Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra to assume responsibility for development and operation accountability for Blizzard.”
  • “We will continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we will be adding additional staff and resources.”
  • “We will terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.”
  • “We will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions.”
  • “We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We will be actively reviewing that content and removing it, as appropriate.”

Despite this, Activision-Blizzard won’t be firing Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Frances Townsend after employees called for her resignation due to her dismissive response to the claims in the lawsuit.

At the end of the call, the Q&A session began with the panel being asked how the lawsuit would affect the company’s pipeline, which is certainly a choice concern to lead with. But nothing beyond the same talking points came out of that. Two questions later, when asked about morale within the company and how that is going to affect output, to which Oneal responded, “there’s a lot of work ahead of [the company], but the passion and productivity are here, and when our people feel taken care of, the rest will take care of itself.” Okay.

Then the questions hit on Call of DutyCandy Crush, and all the other regular, ghoulish, business-speak you’d normally expect. The Activision-Blizzard suits recite the same talking points with slightly different variations, but the talk of the lawsuit is all about how it’s going to affect the pipeline. So the takeaway here is that Activision-Blizzard higher-ups have been told to go over the same talking points in whatever context the lawsuit is brought up, and investors can only ask about the state of things under the framing of how it will affect them, specifically.

All of this follows a walkout by Activision-Blizzard workers protesting the working conditions last week, and calling for transparency about the state of things after the higher-ups claimed the event outlined in the lawsuit were “distorted, and in many cases false.”3