As Activision Blizzard continues to grapple with the California lawsuit alleging a discriminatory “frat boy” culture at the company, investment group SOC—one of Activision Blizzard’s shareholders—says that the company’s promises and responses to the allegations don’t go “nearly far enough.” SOC says that they want to see Activision Blizzard do more to “address the deep and widespread issues with equity, inclusion, and human capital management.”
The report comes via Axios, who exclusively obtained a letter (with permission) from SOC. Executive director Dieter Waizeneggar outlines a number of ways they feel Activision Blizzard’s responses don’t meet the bar required for a more drastic culture shift, including siding with employees who feel the use of the Wilmer Hale law firm is a conflict of interest. He also criticizes the unequal executive pay structure, of which there has been no move to change despite promises of equitable and fair treatment for all employees.
No changes have been announced or proposed that would in any way alter the current process for filling vacancies either to the board of directors or to senior management.
No changes have been announced with respect to executive pay, either with respect to clawing back compensation from executives who are found to have engaged in or enabled abusive practices, or to align executives with the equity goals [CEO Bobby] Kotick articulated.
The announced review by Wilmer Hale is deficient in a number of ways: this firm has a sterling reputation as a defender of the wealthy and connected, but it has no track record of uncovering wrongdoing, the lead investigator does not have in-depth experience investigating workplace harassment and abuse, and the scope of the investigation fails to address the full range of equity issues Mr. Kotick acknowledges.
Further, the letter from SOC actively calls for specific changes and actions for Activision Blizzard to take. Notably, they want to give employees representation on the board, make bonuses reliant on overall diversity and equity goals, and undergo a full “company-wide equity review.”
- Increase board diversity and equity by adding a woman director – preferably one with a history of advocacy for marginalized people and communities – by the end of 2021, committing to gender-balance on the board by 2025, and reserving at least one board seat for a nominee selected by current employees as their representative.
- Claw back bonuses from executives found to have engaged in or enabled abusive behavior, award no bonuses for 2021, and make future bonus awards contingent on the company as a whole achieving clearly articulated and independently verified milestones for diversity and equity.
- Undertake a company-wide Equity Review, similar to the Racial Equity Reviews that Facebook, Air B&B, Starbucks, and BlackRock have completed or promised, but that will encompass the full range of concerns (including inequities rooted in gender, gender-identity, sexuality, and race) articulated by Mr. Kotick, Activision Blizzard employees, and customers: equity and representation issues in game design, the development process, and in user forums and similar settings.
Activision Blizzard has yet to publicly respond to the letter from SOC. Previously, employees were upset that the demands they had outlined were not addressed. The company’s responses have seemed minimal, attempting to ride out the storm and wait for coverage of the alleged issues at the company to pass while taking the minimum action it needs to in order to show some kind of movement. Those promises are falling flat, however. As the SOC letter notes, calls for “equity” happen despite asymmetrical compensation structures for executives, and the company is employing a law firm whose reputation shows more interest in protecting the wealthy and corporations rather than fighting for the rights of the employees.
Recently, vice president for corporate affairs Fran Townsend stepped down from the Activision Blizzard Women’s Network after her dismissive initial response to the lawsuit. She still holds her position on the company’s executive team, however. Activision Blizzard is also currently facing a lawsuit from shareholders for misleading statements and a failure to disclose the California lawsuit.[Source: Axios]
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