Activision Blizzard, the multinational video game developer and publishing company behind the popular “Call of Duty” game, has agreed to pay a $35 million settlement to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over charges of inadequate measures to handle disclosures of employee complaints and violation of whistleblower protection rules.
The SEC claimed that between 2018 and 2021, the company failed to have proper systems in place to manage workplace misconduct complaints, despite being aware of the significance of employee retention issues in its business.
The company was accused of requiring employees between 2016 and 2021 to inform the company if the SEC contacted them for information, which is a violation of whistleblower protection rules. This resulted in the SEC alleging that Activision Blizzard was unable to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors.
Despite not admitting or denying the charges, Activision Blizzard released a statement saying they were “pleased to have amicably resolved this matter” and have since “enhanced” their workplace reporting and contract language. The company made changes to its complaint collection and communication processes between May 2020 and May 2022, which the SEC acknowledged in its order.
This settlement comes after the company previously settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegations of widespread sex discrimination. The company fired several employees to address allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct, and its board has stated that there was no evidence to suggest senior executives intentionally ignored and sought to downplay these issues.
Recently, Microsoft, the maker of Xbox, made a $68.7 billion bid to acquire Activision Blizzard, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asked a judge in December to block the transaction, while EU authorities are also examining the deal.