A recent report by Kotaku indicates that the U.S. government has finally started to investigate how popular video game publisher, Activision Blizzard, handled and disclosed its sexual harassment, abuse and toxic behaviour allegations with investors. This comes after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) subpoenaed several chief executives to court, including Activision Blizzard's CEO and billionaire, Bobby Kotick.
According to the report, the SEC are not necessarily investigating the criminality of the abuse nor the discrimination suffered by the victims of the company but rather Activision Blizzard's disclosure of allegations to investors and other related entities, since their actions may constitute stock market manipulation.
SEC subpoena Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick amid lawsuit investigation
The SEC reportedly ordered Activision Blizzard to surrender various documents, per a report by the Wall Street Journal. According to this report, personnel files of six former employees and records of Kotick’s communications with executives regarding the complaints levied against Activision Blizzard staff were requested.
Helaine Klasky, an Activision spokesperson, confirmed to Kotaku that an investigation led by the SEC was underway and noted that "the company is cooperating." Klasky also indicated that the SEC was focussed on “the company’s disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues."
Kotaku noted that the SEC investigation was "not necessarily about finding justice for the victims of the horrible abuse" but rather about investigating whether "Activision and its executives correctly and adequately disclosed allegations of workplace harassment and gender-pay issues to investors and other related individuals."
The primary purpose of the SEC is to investigate matters related to market manipulation, which does justify the investigation's current scope. Given this fact, it's possible that we could see a separate federal investigation ensue, related to the criminality of the alleged actions committed by the individuals responsible, as highlighted in the other lawsuit.
At present, there are at least two active lawsuits against the company. The first lawsuit was filed in July, by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (CDFEH) after it alleged that the company fostered a "frat boy" work culture. This ignited several other claims being made against the company.
The second lawsuit, which is currently being investigated by the SEC, was filed a month later by an L.A. law firm that claimed the company violated federal securities law by making "false and misleading statements after they failed to disclose its legal issues timeously with investors.
Recently, Activision Blizzard faced yet another damning challenge after a federal labour board complaint was also filed on behalf of employees that accused the company of using "intimidation" and "surveillance" to stop workers from unionizing.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Activision Blizzard said: "We have made and are making a number of important changes to improve our policies and procedures to ensure that there is no place anywhere in our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind."
While this may be true, those responsible have yet to have been brought to justice and it is only until then that proper remediation can begin.
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Featured image courtesy of Activision Blizzard / Wikimedia Commons.