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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick Concedes Systemic Failures Amid Harassment Claims: “Guardrails Weren’t In Place”

·3-min read

The CEO of Activision Blizzard, maker of popular video games like Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft, conceded widespread failures to protect workers and outlined sweeping changes.

Bobby Kotick, who is leading the company through a difficult period as it copes with a number of claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, shared his thoughts in a letter to employees. The letter was also put out as a press release.

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“The guardrails weren’t in place everywhere to ensure that our values were being upheld,” Kotick wrote. “In some cases, people didn’t consistently feel comfortable reporting concerns, or their concerns weren’t always addressed promptly or properly. People were deeply let down and, for that, I am truly sorry.”

The company has been rocked by a series of allegations over its culture. Just last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company for workplace harassment and discrimination after a three-year-investigation. The suit was settled, and Activision Blizzard created an $18 million fund to compensate workers who joined the claim. More than 20 employees were fired this year following allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, the company said this month with 20 more people facing disciplinary action. The company also paused its annual BlizzCon event, which was slated to take place online this year due to Covid.

In the letter, Kotick identifies specific initiatives the company is taking. First, it is implementing a “zero-tolerance” harassment policy. If any employee is found, via “new investigative processes” to have retaliated against another worker for filing a complaint, they will be terminated. “In the past, when we discovered and substantiated harassment, we terminated some employees and provided verbal or written warnings or different disciplinary actions to others,” Kotick wrote. “In retrospect, to achieve our goals for workplace excellence, this approach is no longer adequate. We need tougher rules and consistent monitoring across the entire company to make sure reports are being handled correctly and discipline is appropriate and swift.”

Also, the company pledged to increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in its ranks by 50%, as well as investing $250 million to advance opportunities for diverse workers. Kotick also said the company is waiving required arbitration of sexual harassment and discrimination claims as well as increasing visibility on pay equity.

The exec also promised “regular progress updates,” with a “dedicated focus on this vital work” being part of the company’s annual report and other public disclosures.

Kotick said he also asked the company’s board of directors to lower his overall annual compensation to $62,500, which is the lowest amount allowed under California laws governing public corporations.

“There’s a tendency when companies face challenging moments to lose sight of what makes them special, what makes them great,” Kotick told employees. “You are a truly special group of people who – through passion, conviction, drive, and determination – keep accomplishing extraordinary things. While the critical work ahead won’t be easy, I am confident our collective commitment to workplace excellence will be achieved.”

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