Activision-Blizzard Shareholder Criticizes ‘Inadequate’ Response to Workplace Culture Lawsuit

SOC Investment Group says the company isn't going far enough to address issues.

It wasn’t surprising, but it was a weird moment of cognitive dissonance when Activision-Blizzard investors came off the news that the company is the subject of a lawsuit for sexist workplace culture, only to ask about how this would affect its pipeline of video games during an earnings call. But today, SOC Investment Group, a shareholder in Activision-Blizzard, put out its own statement on the matter, saying it views the company’s current actions as inefficient.

In a letter posted by Axios‘ Megan Farokhmanesh on Twitter, SOC says the promises Activision-Blizzard has made thus far haven’t gone “nearly far enough to address the deep and widespread issues with equity, inclusion, and human capital management.” The letter specifically notes the following problems within the company that it feels have gone unaddressed:

  • “No changes have been announced or proposed that would in any way alter the current process for filling vacancies either to the board of directors or to senior management.”
  • “No changes have been announced with respect to executive pay, either with respect to clawing back compensation from executives who are found to have engaged in or enabled abusive practices, or to align executives with the equity goals [CEO Bobby] Kotick articulated.”
  • “The announced review by Wilmer Hale is deficient in a number of ways: 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.”

As for solutions, SOC calls for diversity on the company’s board, specifically a woman with a history of advocacy for marginalized groups, that any executives who allowed or participated abusive behavior within the company to receive no bonuses in 2021, and to begin an equity review regarding concerns about the treatment of marginalized employees.

  • “Increase board diversity and equity by adding a woman director – preferably one with a history of advocacy for marginalized people and communities – by the end of 2021, committing to gender-balance on the board by 2025, and reserving at least one board seat for a nominee selected by current employees as their representative.”
  • “Claw back bonuses from executives found to have engaged in or enabled abusive behavior, award no bonuses for 2021, and make future bonus awards contingent on the company as a whole achieving clearly articulated and independently verified milestones for diversity and equity.”
  • “Undertake a company-wide Equity Review, similar to the Racial Equity Reviews that Facebook, Air B&B, Starbucks, and BlackRock have completed or promised, but that will encompass the full range of concerns (including inequities rooted in gender, gender-identity, sexuality, and race) articulated by Mr. Kotick, Activision Blizzard employees, and customers: equity and representation issues in game design, the development process, and in user forums and similar settings.”

All of this follows an ongoing saga of fallout, including a walkout by employees following the publicizing of the lawsuit, as well as letters calling for transparency from Activision-Blizzard leadership along with the resignation of Frances Townsend, the executive vice president for corporate affairs, for her dismissive response to the claims made in the lawsuit. Following this, Townsend proceeded to show her whole ass on Twitter before deactivating her account.

More recently, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack left the company with Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra acting as new leadership.