Activision Blizzard Pays $35 Million For Failing To Handle Workplace Complaints

One of Activision Blizzard's lawsuits has concluded, with the company agreeing to a settlement of $35 million. The deal allows Activision Blizzard to neither admit nor deny the claims brought against it by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), meaning it's unlikely that the industry giant will make an admission of wrongdoing.

This lawsuit pertained to allegations of workplace misconduct, in relation to the handling of complaints and the treatment of whistleblowers. The SEC's findings not only indicate that Activision Blizzard "lacked the tools" to handle complaints, but actively "impede[d] former employees from communicating" with the agency as part of its investigation. It's not clear if any employees will leave the company as a result of these findings.

“The SEC’s order finds that Activision Blizzard failed to implement necessary controls to collect and review employee complaints about workplace misconduct," reads an announcement from the SEC (spotted by VGC). The report further states that Activision Blizzard, therefore, lacked the means to identify larger issues within its workplace, and failed to alert its investors of these complaints.

Interestingly, the SEC even comments on the possibility that some of the actions the company engaged in were unlawful, such as allegedly "impeding" former employees from helping the governmental department in its investigation. "[It's] not only bad corporate governance, it is illegal," says the SEC.

Further explaining this point, the SEC says between 2016 and 2021, Activision Blizzard required workers to tell management if they had been asked to give evidence in the investigation. This would breach whistleblower protection rules, as it would understandably put pressure on employees to not provide the SEC with any information that reflected poorly on their bosses.

However, as previously mentioned, this isn't necessarily the damning ruling that would force any executives to be pushed out of the company. "Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Activision Blizzard agreed to a cease-and-desist order and to pay a $35 million penalty," the report concludes. In other words, it seems that the industry giant is simply required to pay the fine to see this issue resolved.

Despite this, this isn't the end of the company's legal woes. Even outside of the well-publicised abuse complaints, it's also facing the prospect of Overwatch League teams collectively bargaining for financial relief in the millions. This comes after a decline in viewership and high production costs that the teams are blaming on the publisher. It remains to be seen if Activision Blizzard agrees to foot the bill, especially as Overwatch 2's competitive scene heats up after the game's rocky launch.

Similarly, Activision Blizzard-owned companies are struggling to stay out of trouble. As we've been following recently, workers at Proletariat, a support studio for World of Warcraft, have been trying to unionise. These efforts have proven unsuccessful so far, but it still faces allegations of racism, sexism, and union busting.

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