2 min read.Updated: 17 Nov 2021, 06:56 PM ISTSARAH E. NEEDLEMAN, The Wall Street Journal
Protest occurs after a report on the executive’s handling of sexual misconduct issues at the videogame company
More than 100 current and former Activision Blizzard Inc. employees participated in a protest Tuesday to demand the resignation of Chief Executive Bobby Kotick after publication of a Wall Street Journal article about his handling of sexual misconduct issues at the videogame company, participants said.
The demonstration was held outside Activision’s Blizzard campus in Irvine, Calif., and organized by a recently formed Activision employee group called the ABK Workers Alliance. ABK is shorthand for Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment and King, the company’s three main business units responsible for its Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush franchises, respectively.
While most of the company’s employees continue to work remotely, some of those working from home also stopped work in protest, according to people familiar with the matter.
Shares in Activision fell more than 6% after the Journal report was published, ending the day at $66.14.
“We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO," the alliance said in a post on Twitter promoting the gathering.
Activision said in a written statement that the Journal’s reporting paints “a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO" and that it “ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace."
A Journal spokesman said: “Nothing in Activision Blizzard’s statement challenges the facts in our reporting."
Activision’s board of directors also issued a statement, saying it “remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry" and “confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals."
Activision, based in Santa Monica, Calif., employs about 10,000 people. Current and former staffers previously staged a walkout in July after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit that month alleging that the company ignored numerous complaints by female employees of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, citing what it called its “frat boy" culture. Activision is challenging the suit.
In September, Activision said it agreed to pay $18 million to settle a separate lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had been investigating the company since 2018 and claimed that employees endured “sexual harassment that was severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment." Activision said at the time it would take other steps to “prevent and eliminate harassment."
The California regulator is challenging the settlement, saying the proposed amount is too low and that the agreement is harmful to victims and its case. The EEOC has accused the lawyers leading the California case of misconduct. The state agency has denied those allegations.
Activision and Mr. Kotick have also been subpoenaed in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into how the company handled reports of misconduct and disclosed them to the public. Activision disclosed the SEC probe in September after questions from the Journal. A lawyer for Activision told the Journal most companies don’t disclose EEOC investigations.
In October, after the Journal approached Activision with questions for the article that prompted Tuesday’s protest, Mr. Kotick told employees he would ask the board to reduce his total annual compensation to $62,500. He also said the company was implementing a zero-tolerance harassment policy and ending mandatory arbitration for harassment and discrimination claims.