A damning report has been published today claiming that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the sexual assault and allegations happening at the company he owned. This is counter to the stance he has taken where he claims he wasn’t aware of the issues happening.
Earlier this year, Activision Blizzard was hit with a lawsuit from the state of California claiming the publisher’s headquarters was filled with toxicity, sexual allegations, pay disparity, and ‘frat boy’ culture. Last month, Kotick went on record and apologized to the employees and agreed to an $18 million settlement
Per The Wall Street Journal, the report released today shines a light on what Kotick was truly aware of happening within the walls of the company he helped build. Speaking to former employees and people aware of the situation, the WSJ laid out what Kotick was aware of and his role in the allegations coming to light today, including rape allegations brought to Kotick’s attention directly, an event Kotick did not inform his board of the situation.
“Over the years, Mr. Kotick himself has been accused by several women of mistreatment both inside and outside the workplace, and in some instances has worked to settle the complaints quickly and quietly,” The Wall Street Journal report says.
In 2006, Kotick was accused of harassing one of his assistants, going so far as to threaten her in a voicemail. The next year, Kotick told a private flight attendant who was sexually harassed he would destroy her, later apologizing and denying he ever said that.
Dan Bunting, co-head of Treyarch was mentioned in the article for being accused of sexual assault in 2017 by a female employee after an alcohol-fueled night. This event was later investigated by the human resources department in 2019 and concluded that Bunting should be fired, only for Kotick to intervene and keep Bunting on board, offering him counseling instead.
Bunting left Activision Blizzard once the Wall Street Journal began asking questions.
A former Sledgehammer employee was assaulted by former Sledgehammer Games employee Javier Panameno, who was accused of raping one woman and harassing another woman. The woman reported the situation to human resources and left the company in 2017 but according to the Wall Street Journal, Activision Blizzard did not follow up on the situation or fire Panameno until a lawyer representing one of the victims questioned them. This situation was eventually settled out of court and Kotick kept the situation away from the board of directors, leading to the lawsuit from the SEC.
Last year, almost 30 women who worked in Activision’s esports division emailed their supervisors with claims of harassment. Kotick was aware of the email circulating and that all that was done was some training for the managers.
Jen Oneal, the first female studio head was on the job for no longer than three months. The change in leadership was welcome, even with all the turmoil going on. She left earlier this month after being given the role this summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, before her resignation, Oneal wasn’t convinced the company could change when she emailed the legal team at Activision.
In the email, she said she had no faith in the Activision leadership being able to change the culture around, saying “it was clear the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
Oneal was a victim of sexual harassment early in her career at Activision and was also paid less than Mike Ybarra, her male co-lead of Blizzard. “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against,” said Oneal, a gay Asian-American.
In a prepared statement, Kotick released a video regarding the new report from the WSJ. “Over the last few years our industry has had an uncomfortable spotlight that’s been illuminating opportunities for us to change,” Kotick said, “And we must all, including me, embrace this need for change, so we can bring our very best selves to the very best place to work.”
Following the release of the report from the Wall Street Journal, Bobby Kotick had this to say:
“We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their – and our – values. The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart.
Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”