Activision forms ‘Workplace Responsibility Committee,’ does not remove Bobby Kotick as CEO


Activision Blizzard has announced the formation of a Workplace Responsibility Committee, made up of two members of the company's board of directors, which will oversee the company's implementation of “new policies, procedures, and commitments” aimed at eliminating harassment, discrimination, and other abuses in the workplace.

The committee will “measure progress and ensure accountability” as Activision Blizzard moves to improve its workplace culture, through key performance indicators and “frequent progress reports” that will be provided by CEO Bobby Kotick, CPO Julie Hodges, and COO Frances Townsend. It is also “working to add a new, diverse director to the Board.”

The formation of the new committee seems like a positive development, but it falls far short of the demands expressed by the ABK Workers Alliance employee organization, which last week called for Kotick to either step down or be removed. That call came after allegations of workplace misconduct, including threatening to have an assistant killed, were made against Kotick himself. Shortly after that, the SOC Investment Group, an Activision Blizzard shareholder, also called for Kotick to be ousted, along with board chairman Brian Kelly and lead independent director Robert J. Morgado.

The Activision Blizzard board has previously expressed support for Kotick, referring to progress the company has made “under Bobby Kotick's leadership” and saying it remains confident in his “leadership, commitment and ability” to bring about change. The tone of this statement strikes me as different, however. It makes no mention of Kotick beyond the requirement that he provide progress reports to the new committee, and instead prioritizes the leadership of the board of directors.

“While the Company, with the Board's support, has been making important progress to improve workplace culture, it is clear that current circumstances demand increased Board engagement,” the statement says. “Formation of the Committee and additional future changes will help facilitate additional direct oversight and transparency and ensure that the Company's commitments to Activision Blizzard's workforce are carried out with urgency and impact. This has been a challenging time across the Company, but the Board is confident in the actions underway to set the Company up for future success.”

Kotick recently mused about stepping down from the CEO position if he's unable to address the many problems at Activision Blizzard “with speed,” and his position is looking increasingly shaky: Along with the calls to leave coming from employees and shareholders, the company—and, by extension, Kotick himself—has been sharply criticized by industry heavyweights including Sony Interactive president and CEO Jim Ryan, Xbox chief Phil Spencer, and most recently, Nintendo of America head Doug Bowser. Non-profit group Girls Who Code, an organization that works to increase the number of women working in computer science fields, also recently ended its Activision Blizzard partnership.

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