Shareholders at Activision-Blizzard have defied company advice and voted in favor of a new plan that would see the firm forced to release annual reports on their efforts to curb and eventually remove workplace abuse and harassment. The company had initially advised the shareholders not to vote for the plan, but will now consider it after two-thirds voted in favor at their recent shareholders meeting.
Activision had done its best to prevent the plan from being voted for in the first place.
“Rather than diverting energy and resources toward creating yet another report, we should continue to directly respond to employee concerns,” the company said in a statement. The use of 'continue' will raise eyebrows in the gaming space, with Activision-Blizzard having been repeatedly accused of abusive practices over the past year or so.
The reports, which were proposed in February by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, would require Activision Blizzard to share information, including compensation data. They would also need to disclose the company’s total number of sexual harassment settlements over the course of the year, its progress around improving the process for harassment and abuse complaints, and the total pending complaints.
According to Stephen Totillo of Axios, the vote itself is non-binding, meaning that Activision is under no pressure to move forward with the plan if they decide not to. However, advocacy groups and employee reps on Twitter made it clear they would be looking to hold the Call of Duty publishers to the vote in an effort to improve conditions at the firm.
Activision Blizzard "not ready for true change"
In a statement given to the Washington Post, DiNapoli said that “Shareholders’ majority vote spoke loudly. Activision Blizzard needs to restore investor confidence and increase transparency on how it handles workplace harassment and discrimination. We expect swift action from the company on our concerns.” This comes less than a week after Activision-Blizzard announced they had investigated the claims against themselves, and found themselves innocent.
The meeting also saw shareholders approve the addition of ten members to the board of the company despite opposition from Bobby Kotick and two of his lieutenants, as well as approval for the executive pay packages. However, a motion for a shareholder seat on the board, which would allow them to better monitor improvements to HR processes among other things, received only 5% approval and was dismissed. This was taken as proof by pundits that Activision-Blizzard “are not ready for true change.”
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is due a $22M payout next month, which would come in the form of stock shares, if he is able to improve the company's culture sufficiently, which may explain the softening of stance toward unionization we’ve seen from Activision-Blizzard lately. The $70B deal with Microsoft is still under regulatory review, with the deal not expected to be completed until 2023 at the earliest.