As Activision Blizzard grapples with its California lawsuit over a discriminatory “frat boy” culture at the company, investment group SOC — one of Activision Blizzard’s shareholders — says the company’s promises and responses to the allegations don’t go “near enough.” to go” .” SOC says they want Activision Blizzard to do more to “address the deep and widespread issues of equity, inclusion and human capital management.”
The notification comes via Axios, who received a letter (with permission) from SOC exclusively. Executive Director Dieter Waizeneggar outlines some of the ways they feel Activision Blizzard’s responses do not meet the bar required for a more drastic culture shift, including siding with employees who believe using the law firm of Wilmer Hale is a conflict of interest. He also criticizes the unequal pay structure for executives, which has not changed despite promises of fair and fair treatment for all employees.
No changes have been announced or proposed that would in any way alter the current process for filling board or senior management vacancies.
No changes have been announced to executive compensation, or to recovering compensation from executives who have engaged in or facilitated abusive practices, or in aligning executives with equity targets [CEO Bobby] Kotick articulated.
Wilmer Hale’s announced review is flawed in a number of ways: This company has a stellar reputation as a defender of the rich and connected, but it has no track record of exposing wrongdoing, the lead investigator lacks in-depth experience investigating harassment and abuse at work, and the scope of the investigation does not address the full range of equality issues that Mr. Kotick acknowledges.
Furthermore, SOC’s letter actively calls for specific changes and actions for Activision Blizzard. Specifically, they want to provide employee representation on the board, make bonuses dependent on general diversity and equity targets, and undergo a full “company-wide stock assessment”.
- Increase diversity and equity on the board by adding a female director by the end of 2021 – preferably one with a history of advocacy for marginalized people and communities – by aiming for gender balance on the board by 2025 and by at least to reserve one board seat for a candidate selected by current employees as their representative.
- Claw back bonuses from guilty or abusive executives, do not award bonuses before 2021, and make future bonus awards conditional on the achievement of clearly defined and independently verified diversity and fairness milestones by the company as a whole.
- Conduct 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 covers the full range of concerns (including inequalities 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 not yet publicly responded to SOC’s letter. Previously, employees were angry that the demands they had outlined were not met. The company’s response seemed minimal, trying to weather the storm and waiting for coverage of the alleged problems at the company to pass, while taking the minimal action necessary to sort out any sort of show movement. However, those promises are disappointing. As the SOC letter notes, despite asymmetric compensation structures for executives, it calls for “equality” and the company employs a law firm whose reputation shows more interest in protecting the rich and corporations than in workers’ rights.
Recently, Vice President of Corporate Affairs Fran Townsend stepped down from the Activision Blizzard Women’s Network after her negative initial response to the lawsuit. However, she still holds her position on the company’s executive team. Activision Blizzard is also currently facing a shareholder lawsuit for misrepresentation and failure to disclose the lawsuit in California.