Bulletins

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew of misconduct for years

A damning report from the Wall Street Journal alleges Kotick misled investors and his board about employee misconduct.

Activision Blizzard workers protest outside the studio main entrance

A newly reported story flies in the face of many of Activision's public comments regarding allegations of widespread sexual assault.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

This story contains mention of sexual assault.

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick was aware of severe misconduct among employees at the video game publisher and its subsidiaries for years, according to a new investigation The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday.


One of the most damning details in the report involves an employee of Activision-owned Sledgehammer Games, responsible for numerous Call of Duty games, who informed the company in 2018 that she was raped by a male superior on two separate occasions in 2016 and 2017. The Wall Street Journal reports that Kotick did not inform his board of directors, and instead the company reached an out-of-court settlement with the former employee.

The report is full of other alarming details, including an alleged death threat Kotick delivered to an assistant in 2006 and the dismissal of Activision-owned studio Treyarch's co-head Dan Bunting only after the WSJ asked the company about an misconduct allegation against Bunting from 2017. According to the report, Kotick intervened to protect Bunting two years later when the incident was being investigated and human resources recommended he be fired.

The report flies in the face of many of Activision's public comments regarding allegations of widespread sexual assault, harassment and workplace discrimination at the company. Since California filed a lawsuit against the company this summer, Kotick and other executives have pledged to do better and have claimed at numerous times that they were unaware of the gravity of the workplace toxicity issues.

Many of the measures the company has taken since have been focused on Blizzard Entertainment, including the replacement of former Blizzard President J. Allen Brack and the firing or forced resignation of numerous other top employees. Kotick also said he would be taking a pay cut and would end forced arbitration clauses in employee contracts.

But the WSJ report makes clear that these issues were not only longstanding ones affecting more than just Blizzard, but also that Kotick allegedly took measures to withhold incidents of sexual assault and misconduct from the company's board. The SEC is now investigating Activision Blizzard, specifically about the company's actions and communication with investors since it became aware of California's investigation back in 2018.

"Mr. Kotick would not have been informed of every report of misconduct at every Activision Blizzard company, nor would he reasonably be expected to have been updated on all personnel issues," company spokesperson Helaine Klasky said in a statement to the WSJ. Klasky added, however, that Activision "fell short of ensuring that all of our employees' behavior was consistent with our values and our expectations."

After the publication of the article, Activision Blizzard released a statement saying it was "disappointed in The Wall Street Journal's report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO." The company says the incidents mentioned in the article "were brought to [Kotick's] attention" and acted on, and that the WSJ "ignores important changes underway to make this the industry's most welcoming and inclusive workplace."

Kotick himself also prepared a video statement sent to employees. "There's an article today that paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership," Kotick said. "Anyway who counts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn't' really appreciate how important this is to me."

The ABK Workers Alliance, an employee activist group, has since announced that it's staging a walkout in response to the WSJ report and are calling for Kotick's resignation.

Following the company's defense of Kotick, the Activision Blizzard Board of Directors released a statement saying it stands behind the executive:

The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick's leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attentio. The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.

Update: This article was updated Tuesday to include additional details from the WSJ report, Activision Blizzard's formal responses to the story and the response from the ABK Workers Alliance.

Update: Added a statement from the Activision Blizzard board of directors.

Latest Bulletins

Amid ongoing calls for more transparency from tech platforms, Meta announced Wednesday that it will begin opening up an archive of content it has removed to researchers around the world. The archive, which was built with CrowdTangle, will include posts removed under the company's policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior, a policy that was created largely in response to the propaganda campaign engineered by Russia's Internet Research Agency leading up to the 2016 election.

Keep Reading Show less

Since Amazon launched its AWS machine learning platform SageMaker four years ago, the company has banked on the idea that more and more businesses will want to develop ML-based systems without having to get their hands too dirty. In its quest to create tools that make ML easier to build and deploy — even for business users who aren’t engineers or data scientists — Amazon unveiled a slew of new features in its SageMaker suite during this week’s annual re:Invent show.

“We need to lower the bar for adopting of ML,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon AI, during a keynote talk Wednesday morning.

Keep Reading Show less

Payments company Square has changed its corporate name to Block in an indication of its potential to go all-in on cryptocurrencies.

Keep Reading Show less

Capital One is dropping overdraft fees for consumer banking customers, the bank said Wednesday.

Big banks have been cutting back consumer fees as they face pressure from both startup neobanks as well as Washington regulators.

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok is rolling out new features to help creators make money, according to a company blog post published Wednesday. The newly announced Creator Next program expands the way creators can be compensated for their work, allowing viewers to send gifts and tips to their favorite creators.

Keep Reading Show less

SpaceX, the high-flying launch company that broke a $100 billion valuation just months ago, could be in big financial trouble, according to its top executive.

Keep Reading Show less

Epic is making its hit game Fortnite less about firearms and more about self-expression and socializing. It launched a new game format that looks like it inches Epic closer to the sought-after metaverse so many tech and gaming firms keep going on about.

Keep Reading Show less

Reddit is allowing users to see when others are typing, commenting and reading their posts in real time, the company announced Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

The barrage of robocalls is about to get worse with a new frontier of attack: social media accounts. As if social media didn't have enough problems, a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule has gone into effect that allows debt collectors to reach out to people on Twitter, Instagram or wherever else they have online social accounts, as long as the DMs are private.

Keep Reading Show less

With only days of voting remaining ahead of the winter recess, executives from dozens of companies that make or rely on semiconductors sent a letter to Congressional leadership Wednesday urging them to pass legislation tied to billions in subsidies for the U.S. chips industry.

Keep Reading Show less

Twitter will reopen its San Francisco and New York offices on Monday, the company confirmed to Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less

Salesforce has promoted Bret Taylor to co-CEO and vice chair of its board, the company announced Tuesday.

Taylor will work alongside Marc Benioff, the company’s current CEO, chairman and co-founder. Before his promotion, Taylor served as president and COO of the company for two years. He joined Salesforce in 2016 when Quip, a software startup he founded alongside Kevin Gibbs, was acquired by Salesforce. Taylor quickly rose to power in the company, serving as its chief product officer between 2017 and 2019 before becoming COO.

Keep Reading Show less

A new body inside the U.K. Cabinet Office — the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) — has taken a step toward creating more transparency around the algorithmic tech government agencies use. It unveiled an algorithmic transparency standard on Nov. 29 in conjunction with the country’s National Data Strategy and National AI Strategy.

Keep Reading Show less

The Shanghai Data Exchange, open for trading as of Nov. 25, is China’s latest effort to facilitate data transactions between companies.

Keep Reading Show less

It took Wall Street a long time to embrace cloud computing, but Goldman Sachs is making up for that delay in a big way, launching a new cloud service of its own for financial clients that was designed and built with help from AWS.

Keep Reading Show less

David Marcus, the leader of Meta’s financial technology unit Novi, will leave his role after seven years with the company, he announced on Twitter Tuesday.

Keep Reading Show less

AWS launched its Arm-powered Graviton3 data center chip Tuesday at its annual re:Invent conference, promising a 25% boost to performance compared with the prior version.

Keep Reading Show less

Virtual homes, land and shops in metaverses are quickly becoming hot-ticket items for investment firms.

Republic Realm, a metaverse real estate firm, paid $4.3 million for a plot of land in virtual world Sandbox, representing the largest public virtual real-estate deal to date, the company told The Wall Street Journal. The company purchased the virtual plot from video game company Atari.

Keep Reading Show less

Google has been ordered to produce more than 70 documents related to "Project Vivian," a strategy plan reportedly intended to prevent union organizing inside the company, according to Vice.

Keep Reading Show less

Twitter announced Tuesday that sharing private photos and videos of people without their consent will now be a violation of the company's private information policy, which already forbids sharing things like contact information and identity documents.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase is buying security firm Unbound Security in a move that also establishes the crypto company’s presence in Israel, the company said Tuesday.

Keep Reading Show less

The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority announced Tuesday it would require Meta, formerly known as Facebook, to sell Giphy over competitive concerns.

Keep Reading Show less

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urged the House of Representatives to immediately pass a bill that includes roughly $52 billion of incentives for the semiconductor industry at a Monday roundtable discussion outside Detroit.

Keep Reading Show less

The FTC said Monday it had sent information demands to Amazon as the agency delves into supply chain disruptions.

Keep Reading Show less

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered Amazon to allow workers in the Bessemer, Alabama facility to participate in a second election to decide whether to unionize, after union organizers challenged a sweeping Amazon victory in the first vote earlier this year.

Keep Reading Show less