Activision confirms SEC probe into discrimination allegation

Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s most high-profile video game companies, confirmed a regulatory probe and said it is working to address complaints of workplace discrimination.

The Santa Monica, California, company said Tuesday that it is complying with a recent Securities and Exchange Commission subpoena sent to current and former employees and executives and the company itself on “employment matters and related issues.”

The Wall Street Journal had reported Monday that the SEC was investigating how the company had treated complaints of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination and had subpoenaed senior executives including CEO Bobby Kotick, a well-known tech billionaire who is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s ex-boyfriend. An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

Activision Blizzard also said Tuesday that it has cooperated with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into employment practices and that it is working with multiple regulators “on addressing and resolving workplace complaints it has received” and that it is committed to making the company “one of the best, most inclusive places to work.” It has hired a new “Chief People Officer” from Disney.

The company’s shares have dropped 20% in two months as legal woes build over an alleged culture of discrimination against women and minorities at the maker of Candy Crush, Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft. The stock dropped 3.4% to $73.60 in Tuesday afternoon trading.

In late July, California’s civil rights agency sued the company, alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Employees staged a walkout to protest what they said was Activision’s culture of sexism and discrimination.

A shareholder lawsuit in August said the company failed to disclose to investors that it was being investigated in California and that it had workplace culture issues that could result in legal problems. The shareholder suit noted unhappiness within the company, saying more than 2,000 current and former Activision employees signed a petition criticizing the company’s response to the California suit as “insulting” and saying they did not trust leadership to “place employee safety above their own interests.”

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