US securities regulator opens probe into Activision Blizzard over employment issues

Activision Blizzard spent the summer grappling with accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind Call Of Duty and other major franchises, said Monday (Sept 20) that the United States' Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company over "disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues".

A press officer for Activision said the SEC had issued subpoenas to the company and several current and former employees, but did not offer more details on the focus of the investigation. The company is cooperating with the inquiry, the official said in an e-mailed statement.

The securities regulator has also issued a subpoena to Activision's chief executive officer Bobby Kotick, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the investigation and documents viewed by the newspaper.

A representative for the SEC declined to comment on the investigation.

Shares of Santa Monica, California-based Activision were flat in trading after the bell. They closed down 4.2 per cent after the Journal first reported on the SEC probe.

Activision spent the summer grappling with accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace discrimination.

In July, it was sued by a California employment agency, which accused it of fostering a "frat boy workplace culture" in which men joked about rape and women were harassed and underpaid compared with their male colleagues.

Later that month, over 1,500 workers staged a walkout and signed a letter protesting Activision's initially dismissive response to the accusations of misconduct.

Activision's Mr Kotick apologised for the company's initial response to the lawsuit on the eve of the walkout.

Since then, the head of Activision's Blizzard Entertainment subsidiary, where many of the allegations in the lawsuit were centred, has stepped down.

Activision announced last week that it was hiring two new executives, including a new head of human resources.

This month, the Communications Workers of America, a labour union, also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Activision of violating labour law by intimidating workers.

The SEC has asked for documents including minutes from Activision's board meetings since 2019, personnel files of six former employees as well as Mr Kotick's communications with other senior executives about sexual harassment or discrimination complaints by employees or contractors, the Journal report added.

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