Following an extensive investigation carried out by Activision-Blizzard, the company has concluded there was no “widespread harassment, pattern or practice of harassment or systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard or at any of its business units."
The investigation, which was undertaken by former Dell executive Gilbert Casellas on behalf of the board, also found that “contrary to many of the allegations, the board and its external advisors have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment."
What’s more, the investigation into the years of alleged staff abuse and harassment at the company also concluded that Activision had been better than the average company in the level of harassment and abuse staff endured. According to the report, “Mr. Casellas further concluded that, based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard.”
While this will undoubtedly come as something of a relief to the higher-ups at the company, it does rather contradict many of the accounts given by victims in this situation, as well as other investigations that have led to fines. One such includes the $18m settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is, ironically, a former employer of Mr. Casellas.
Activision claims media criticism is "without merit"
The documentation released is full of such statements, with one section claiming that the investigation had “not unearthed any evidence, directly or indirectly, suggesting any attempt by any senior executive or employee to conceal information from the board.”
In fact, Activision-Blizzard feels they may in fact be victims themselves, with Mr. Casellas concluding that “media criticism of the board and Activision Blizzard senior executives as insensitive to workplace matters is without merit.”
Examples of such media reports that Activision-Blizzard staff have labeled as meritless include Kotaku’s report, filed in July of last year, which detailed the “frat boy” culture which was at the heart of so many allegations. This includes photographs of the “Cosby Suite”, screenshots of conversations, and even a clip from a Blizzard event where a female crowd member’s question about the portrayal of women in games is dismissed as a joke.
There is a partial admission that some employees were treated poorly, but even that comes with a disclaimer or dismissal of the idea the board should be held accountable. What the investigation calls “those unfortunate circumstances” do not, in the eyes of Mr. Casellas and his staff "support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the board were aware of and tolerated gender harassment or that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation."
"An environment of misogyny"
This runs counter to the suit filed by the Californian Department of Fair Employment and Housing, who alleged executives were not just aware of the issues but had “fostered an environment of misogyny and frat-boy rule for years, violating equal pay laws and labor codes along the way."
You can find more about the allegations in our report here.
In fact, reading the report, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a company with zero issues, which acts as a great example of how to treat employees, a conclusion Mr. Casellas also reached. He believes ABK “has appropriately disciplined and exited employees to ensure that our practices match our policies and in fact provides “a safe, inclusive and welcoming workplace that serves as a model for our industry.”
Overall, the report paints a picture of a workplace that is a stark difference from descriptions given by former employees of both Activision and Blizzard, and the fact Activision has essentially cleared itself of all wrongdoing will not do much to change public sentiment around the case.