Exposé Claims Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick Wrote Townsend’s ‘Tone-Deaf’ Staff Email
Events have taken a turn for the worse in the ongoing Activision Blizzard sexual harassment scandal following a new exposé from the Wall Street Journal.
The article claims that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew about the frat-boy culture but chose to turn a blind eye towards. Kotick also allegedly swept sexual harassment reports under the rug and even withheld information from the company’s board of directors, including that of an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit filed against a male employee who raped a female subordinate back in 2018.
The Wall Street Journal proceeds to provide more evidence that Kotick was aware of the workplace misconduct happening within the company, which the CEO himself was allegedly party to. “Mr. Kotick himself has been accused by several women of mistreatment both inside and outside the workplace, and in some instances has worked to settle the complaints quickly and quietly, according to people familiar with the incidents and documents reviewed by the Journal,” read the article.
These instances include a lawsuit filed by one of Kotick’s flight attendants for alleged sexual harassment and wrongful termination, and another one filed by a female assistant that accused the CEO of leaving her a voice mail threatening to have her killed. Both lawsuits were settled out of court. Activision Blizzard acknowledged both of the allegations saying that Kotick regretted his actions.
The Journal also claimed that Kotick himself wrote the controversial “distorted and untrue” staff email that went out after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed their sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit back in July.
“Kotick drafted an email that he had another executive send to employees under [Fran Townsend’s] name that dismissed California’s allegations,” sources told the Journal. This is the same email that Kotick later called tone-deaf, essentially throwing Townsend to the wolves.
The exposé also sheds light on the reason for Jen Oneal’s resignation just a few months following her appointment as Blizzard co-lead alongside Mike Ybarra after J. Allen Brack vacated the position. According to Oneal, she was also sexually harassed when she first started working for the company and that she was underpaid compared to Ybarra.
“The following month, [Oneal] sent an email to a member of Activision’s legal team in which she professed a lack of faith in Activision’s leadership to turn the culture around, saying ‘it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way,” said the Journal. “Ms. Oneal said in the email she had been sexually harassed earlier in her career at Activision, and that she was paid less than her male counterpart at the helm of Blizzard, and wanted to discuss her resignation. ‘I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against,’ wrote Ms. Oneal, who is Asian-American and gay.”
Oneal officially stepped down from her position earlier this month.
Activision Blizzard responded to the Wall Street Journal’s article with this statement:
“We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their – and our - values. The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard’s stocks dipped 15%, down nearly $12 per share, right after the company released their Q3 2021 earnings report. More on that here.