back to article Blizzard president, HR chief exit games giant in wake of sexual harassment uproar

Activision Blizzard on Tuesday announced new leadership for Blizzard Entertainment group following a recent sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and an employee walkout demanding better working conditions. "Starting today, J. Allen Brack will be …

  1. Snake Silver badge

    Big surprise

    /s

    As I said before, Blizzard is SUCH a great place to work!

  2. jason_derp Silver badge

    A wild jackass BK appears

    "Bobby Kotick last Tuesday to send a letter..."

    Now, I can't confirm this is 100% true, but I Bobby Kotick has never actually apologized for anything ever before, and doesn't actually know what one is. As a result, while he confirmed that he sent an apology letter, what actually occured was him sending clay jars, sealed with pitch, and holding hundreds of angry bees and an aerosolized insect analog to methamphetamine, to every single person who complained to the HR department ever. Even if it isn't true, I believe it, because knowing him and the universe I live in, it makes the most sense.

  3. Brad16800
    Pint

    Good job to the ones that walked out. If you ignore this sort of behavior it just encourages it.

  4. aerogems
    Paris Hilton

    A Good Lesson

    HR is NOT there to protect the worker, it's there to try to cover up the crimes of the company. There's just no way the HR department wasn't fully aware of what was going on and they just chose to turn a blind eye.

    Sadly I've seen it happen too many times. I know of at least two big name electronics companies that illegally took race into consideration when hiring. Both places, literally all you had to do was just walk through the office and you could see that the overwhelming majority of employees were from a specific race and narrow set of ethnicities within that race. Another large multi-national company, there was cronyism going on, and when people complained about it, the HR department threatened the people making the complaints. Lastly, I'm aware of a large contracting firm that has actively covered up multiple acts of racism. When the company was flat out accused of racism by an employee, they didn't even bother to deny it.

    The HR department is there to protect the company. They do the same basic calculation as car makers when deciding if they should do a recall. How much does it cost to do something about it vs how likely it is that it will blow up in their face if they do nothing. So most of the time it's a lot easier to simply make up some flimsy excuse and show the complaining employee the door. Like has happened to people at Fox News, Uber, Dropbox, and probably hundreds of other companies. NEVER report this stuff to the HR department, always go to the EEOC or whatever is the equivalent where you live. That way they don't have time to destroy evidence.

    Paris because... she's a woman and women are generally the ones who suffer this sort of abuse; though in a fitting bit of ironic(ish) equality, one of the latest accusations about Fox News involves man on man sexual harassment.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: A Good Lesson

      HR is NOT there to protect the worker, it's there to try to cover up the crimes of the company. There's just no way the HR department wasn't fully aware of what was going on and they just chose to turn a blind eye.

      Very much so. And even in lesser things HR is always totally on company's side. It didn't used to be like that. It all changed when Personnel became HR.

      1. Jedit
        Flame

        "It all changed when Personnel became HR."

        I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: calling the department "Personnel" says that you're a person with the respect and value that implies. Calling it "Human Resources" says that you're a resource, and resources are to be expended as required.

      2. Joe Gurman

        Re: A Good Lesson

        Some companies are so far behind the times. The last outfit I worked for changed the name from HR to "Human Capital Management" (seriously) quite a few years ago. We always pronounced the second word, "Cattle."

        1. Geez Money

          Re: A Good Lesson

          It doesn't really matter, it's trendy now for HR departments to rename themselves again the last few years to things like 'huggy wuggy bunny pawtners'. Their job hasn't changed.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A Good Lesson

        Yes! The change from Personnel to HR was one of the most hideous and contemptuous pivots of the modern workplace era.

        We are people not resources you bloody psychos.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Oh, Blizzard

    Such great games.

    Such disappointing behaviour.

    Straighten that ship up !

    1. Geez Money

      Re: Oh, Blizzard

      Great games appears to be increasingly a historical thing at Blizzard anyway.

      Their last success was Overwatch and that's probably their only new and successful IP this millenium. HotS failed, HS is imploding, and both of those weren't really very new anyway (cloning another company's game using their existing characters). Their next three releases are an Activision style mobile microtransaction experience (let's not call them games please), yet another reissuing of Diablo with slightly better graphics and Overwatch 2 which is just an expansion pack for Overwatch but they had to add a '2' to the end because they promised all future Overwatch content would be free at launch time.

      Long gone are the days Blizzard would revolutionize genres, and all the talent that used to do it has moved on to other studios (notably Frost Giant). Basically they're one team shooter away from just becoming the WoW and nostalgia company, and WoW is bleeding subscribers like crazy to FFXIV right now to boot.

  6. xyz123

    Bobby Kotick is the major "person of interest" with regards to the investigations into sexual assault / HR Malfeasance. He's definitely the one that needs to go.

    Hes in a position to accidentally "destroy" evidence, tamper with employee witnesses (threats / bribery) etc. and should NOT be CEO of Activision.

  7. Kane Silver badge
    Boffin

    J. Allen Brack and Jessie Meschuk...

    ...will presumably still be keeping their shares/stocks in trading, yes? Wouldn't want them to be "retired" without any financial backup, would we?

    Would we?

    1. tfewster Silver badge

      Re: J. Allen Brack and Jessie Meschuk...

      Yes, I hope they are still tied to Activision and are held personally responsible for the offences committed under their direction.

  8. Cederic Silver badge

    Difficult learning curve

    I was always confused and irritated by constant barrage of 'men bad' coming from California, and the demands from companies like Blizzard that we all embrace gender politics and are hideous people if we don't.

    I just didn't recognise their descriptions of corporate culture, of society, of the negative behaviours they were so adamant existed. Those things don't exist at the companies I work for, among my friend network, across the various hobbies I have. Sure, some people while dancing get a little handsy at times but they're rejected by the dance community, barred from venues. It's not endemic.

    Then you get news stories like this, and I have to admit these things are happening. The curious thing is that they always seem to be happening in the places that most stridently demanded that others stop doing them.

    Maybe every time a company pushes a hard line on gender poltiics we should immediately invite them to run a full internal audit on their own practices and culture, as that seems to be the most likely place to address issues.

    1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: Difficult learning curve

      These things happen all the time when women take jobs in male dominated professions. As someone who's been in the construction industry for decades (as IT), I have seen the aftermath of this. Women join a job sight, engage in all kinds of banter with the "boys", but when something goes wrong, i.e. they get disciplined for not being a very good employee, we end up with "sexual harassment!" And thus the woman walks away with a nice settlement. It has been my experience, having to work closely with our council during discovery, that 80% of sexual harassment allegations are garbage! The plaintiffs had no problem with the flirting and joking until something changed for them, then they went for the payoff!

      Yes, there are guys who are dicks! and should be dealt with immediately. But, that one situation stated in the article, "woman in a relationship with her boss, allowed him to take nude pictures of her, which he then shared" I am sorry for her, but, there is a certain amount of self-responsibility here on her part!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just him, there's more

    Blizzard's company’s executive VP for corporate affairs Fran Townsend, who was the Bush administration’s third of four Homeland Security Advisors. “The Hurricane,” as she was called, was a primary advocate of torture as a policy—I’m sorry, she calls it “enhanced interrogation techniques.” She was in that job as the Abu Ghraib revelations came to light, defending the uses of waterboarding, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, and the like. The fact that a torture defender became the chief compliance officer at a game company is staggering. The fact that a torture defender is—get this—the executive sponsor of its Employee Women's Network is even worse. (One of the demands of the recent walkout is that she step down from this position, after she issued a tone-deaf response to the allegations.)

    As bad as Townsend is, Activision Blizzard topped themselves by hiring Trump administration Undersecretary of State and Mike Pompeo sycophant Brian Bulatao as its chief administration officer. Before the State Department, he was Pompeo’s chief operating officer at the CIA. Basically, he was Pompeo’s attack dog. The State Department’s inspector general described him as a bully, running the department under a cloud of intimidation; he also showed how Bulatao would repeatedly ignore potential illegalities committed by State employees. Also under Bulatao, State spending on domestic travel and use of government staff for personal benefit to the secretary went way up. And there’s the whole ousting of career ambassadors like Marie Yovanovitch, which Bulatao oversaw. If Fran Townsend is kinda the worst, Bulatao is literally the worst.

    But why stop with two Republican administration defenders of the unthinkable? Activision Blizzard’s recently acquired chief legal officer, Grant Dixton, was Bush’s associate counsel. Dixton was second in command to Alberto Gonzales, the primary advocate of warrantless surveillance in the Bush administration. Under Gonzales and Dixton, the White House counsel’s led the charge for legal authorization of torture. Everything that Fran Townsend defended, Dixton provided the legal underpinnings for. He then parlayed that job to becoming general counsel for our local defense contractor, Boeing. I would not be surprised if Activision Blizzard’s ham-fisted statement in response to the California suit was written by Dixton.

    Finally, as the waves of criticism and employee protest overran Activision Blizzard’s corporate suite, the company hired the law firm of WilmerHale to investigate. Fantastic news, right? Uh no. WilmerHale is directly connected to Townsend, and is particularly known for its expertise in union-busting, literally the thing that stops accountability on a corporate level. This is not an “independent” investigation. It’s an investigation to insulate the corporation from consequences.

    Source: Mike Selinker

    1. First Light Silver badge

      Re: Not just him, there's more

      Sounds like water finding its own level in that company. What a crew!

    2. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Not just him, there's more

      In all fairness, whenever I read something like "company X has hired law firm Y to perform an independent review into company X's recent embarrassment" my cynicism spikes.

      There is no way on this or any other earth that such a law firm could be considered "independent" if they are being hired by the subject of the investigation. The best that happens if they submit a review that doesn't suit the company is that they don't get hired the next time, by the same company or any other. The worst is that the company can pull all sorts of dick moves like dragging out payment, cutting off any other contracts etc.

      Such law firms are hired for PR purposes and rarely any other reason.

  10. First Light Silver badge

    Irony

    If they had taken proper care of their female employees in the first place, it may never have led to the demands to address other workplace issues: serves them right.

    1. Irongut Silver badge

      Re: Irony

      Not just female employees, execs at Blizzard subjected all employees to harassment.

      Fancy a fun game of "grab balls" in the office at lunchtime? Yeah me neither.

      1. First Light Silver badge

        Re: Irony

        Yes they sound like terrible bosses all around. My point is the sexual harassment seems to have prompted employees to assert themselves over other issues at the same time.

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