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Report: DFEH, SEC expand their investigations into Activision Blizzard

As Microsoft and Activision Blizzard work to finalize their acquisition deal, regulators are expanding the scope of their investigations into the publishers of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

February 17, 2022

2 Min Read
A photograph of Bobby Kotick.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Securities and Exchange Commission are both expanding their investigations into Activision Blizzard, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. 

Those expanded investigations come as the company navigates proposed acquisition by Microsoft. The scope of the respective investigations raise different concerns about what regulators might uncover about Activision Blizzard's alleged culture of sexual harassment, toxicity, and abuse.

The two agencies have filed multiple subpoenas that orbit around the conduct of Activison Blizzard executives and employees. The SEC's investigation is looking into how much CEO Bobby Kotick told the company board about sexual harassment reports at the company. 

The DFEH investigation (which made the alleged company culture public last summer) is now subpoenaing Kotick, other employees, and several Los Angeles-area police departments. These subpoenas are apparently being fought in court by Activision Blizzard's lawyers.

The report does not indicate what manner of records the DFEH is seeking from law enforcement agencies. When asked for comment, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson provided the following statement on the DFEH subpoenas: 

"The DFEH is requesting sensitive, confidential information with no limits or relevant scope from Southern California police departments. This serves no legitimate purpose. It represents yet another questionable tactic in DFEH’s broader effort to derail AB’s settlement with the EEOC. Rather than protecting California workers, the DFEH is impeding the meaningful progress at Activision Blizzard and delaying compensation to affected employees."

Activision Blizzard's statement appears to partially reference the agency's objections to a proposed settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A federal judge has already rejected said objection, but the DFEH is appealing. 

It's not good news for Microsoft or Activision Blizzard that both the SEC and DFEH investigations are expanding in scope, and it is disturbing to watch the game publisher continue to aggressively push back on the DFEH investigation even as more allegations came to light.

It remains in question what kind of accountability Activision Blizzard leadership will face for allegedly allowing so much harm to be done to employees. Rumors of Kotick's departure indicate he would receive a substantial financial payday on his exit, and the proposed EEOC settlement might provide funds to survivors, but would not exactly empty the pockets of those who profited while suffering occurred. 

We have reached out to Microsoft and the DFEH for comment, and will update this story when they responds. 

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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