Activision Blizzard confirmed Tuesday the company and several of its current and former employees and executives received subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “regarding disclosures on employment matters and related issues.”
The announcement by the video game developer follows a Wall Street Journal report the company and CEO Bobby Kotick were subpoenaed by the SEC to produce documents, “including minutes from Activision board meetings since 2019, personnel files of six former employees, and separation agreements the company has reached this year with staffers.”
The SEC is reviewing “Kotick’s communications with other senior executives regarding complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination by Activision employees or contractors,” the WSJ reported.
As part of Tuesday’s announcement, Kotick said Activision Blizzard continues to actively engage with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in the two months since the DFEH filed a complaint alleging widespread sexual harassment and discrimination that had been going on at the company for more than a decade.
On Aug. 23, the DFEH filed an amended complaint, in which it further accused Activision Blizzard of illegally “withholding and suppressing evidence” and alleged human resource personnel shredded pertinent documents related to the investigation.
The DFEH alleges Activision Blizzard has taken “adverse actions aimed at curtailing employee rights … such as soliciting waivers of employee rights and obtaining repressive, if not punitive, secret settlements of sexual harassment claims, non-disclosure agreements, and non-disparagement agreements with penalties against employees.”
In another sign Activision Blizzard’s legal troubles are only just beginning, the Communications Workers of America on Sept. 10 filed unfair labor practice charges against the company with the NLRB for worker intimidation and union busting. The charges include allegations management “threatened or disciplined employees” and engaged in “surveillance” and “interrogation” tactics.
Over the last several weeks, Activision Blizzard has been in damage control mode. The company Tuesday noted it has made “a number of important improvements including significant changes to personnel, exiting a number of employees, and expanding compliance resources.” The latter has included enhancements to training, performance management, and anti-harassment.
On Sept 14, Activision Blizzard announced the appointment of Julie Hodges as its new chief people officer. Hodges joined the company from The Walt Disney Company, where she spent the last 32 years, most recently as senior vice president of human resources, compensation, benefits, and talent acquisition.
In her new role, Hodges will lead all aspects of human resources, including diversity, equity, and inclusion; talent acquisition; employee experience; learning and development; compensation and benefits; and workforce planning. She assumed the position from Claudine Naughton, who left the company Monday after two years in that job.
In another personnel move, Blizzard Entertainment Chief Legal Officer Claire Hart announced in a LinkedIn post her last day was Sept. 17, after more than three years with the company.
In an Aug. 3 regulatory filing, Activision Blizzard provided more details about how it is working to improve its culture. Such measures include adding additional staff to its compliance and employee relations teams. Those individuals are tasked with investigating employee concerns, the company stated.
“We are creating safe spaces, moderated by third parties, for employees to speak out and share areas for improvements,” the company added. “We will be evaluating managers and leaders across the company with respect to their compliance with our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences, and we will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions.”
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