The Daily Telegraph

Call of Duty maker settles over office harassment complaints

- By Gareth Corfield

THE Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard has paid $35m (£29m) to settle a US investigat­ion that it failed to properly handle employees’ discrimina­tion complaints.

The company paid the settlement after the US Stock Exchange Commission (SEC) said Activision “lacked con- trols and procedures ... to collect and analyse employee complaints of workplace misconduct”.

The SEC settlement comes after staff at the $59bn game publisher walked out five times between 2021 and 2022, claiming bosses were ignoring their concerns.

Officials said yesterday that “separation agreements” that Activision signed with departing employees also tended to stifle their investigat­ions.

In a seven-page consent order ending the civil court case, the SEC said former Activision staff signed agreements forcing them to alert their former bosses “within one business day” if they blew the whistle on corporate wrongdoing. The agreement, which was used between 2016 and 2021, contained a clause that would “permit the company to take all steps it deems to be appropriat­e to prevent or limit the required disclosure”.

Jason Burt, director of the SEC’S Denver regional office, said: “The SEC’S [consent] order finds that Activision Blizzard failed to implement necessary controls to collect and review employee complaints about workplace misconduct, which left it without the means to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors.”

Disgruntle­d employees protested against harassment in the workplace, perceived lack of action on US abortion rights and also walked out as part of attempts to secure formal recognitio­n for a trade union.

An Activision spokesman said: “As the order recognises, we have enhanced our disclosure processes with regard to workplace reporting and updated our separation contract language”.

“Activision Blizzard is confident in its workplace disclosure­s.”

Competitio­n regulators around the world, including in Britain, are investigat­ing whether Activision’s planned $68bn buyout would infringe competitio­n law.

Britain’s Competitio­n and Markets Authority has referred the merger to a so-called “phase 2” investigat­ion, a detailed inquiry intended to find out whether the deal would reduce competitio­n in the online gaming industry.

The CMA’S findings are due to be published on April 26.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission, a watchdog, is taking Microsoft to court to block the buyout. That case is expected to begin in August this year.

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