More On The Investigations Into Video Game Publisher Giant Activision Blizzard
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Regulatory and legal problems for one of the nation's biggest video game publishers are getting deeper. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Activision Blizzard over its handling of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations. Now, if you're not familiar with the company, you may know the names of its popular game franchises - Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, or even Candy Crush.
Well, The Wall Street Journal broke the news on the SEC investigation, which comes after a summer of turmoil for Activision Blizzard. The Wall Street Journal's Kirsten Grind is here with more.
Welcome to the program.
KIRSTEN GRIND: Thanks so much for having me.
CORNISH: Before the SEC got involved, there was a lawsuit. There were other investigations into the company about sexual harassment and what one complaint called a frat boy culture. What does that mean? (Laughter) Like, can you give us an example?
GRIND: Right. Well, unfortunately, it means almost exactly what it sounds like - that at this very big video game giant, that there was a terrible culture, according to the state's lawsuit, that involved a lot of drinking, women not comfortable being at work, just a lot of allegations of Activision being not a good place to work.
CORNISH: So you've had the Department of Fair Employment and Housing in California suing them, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission going after them. Who else?
GRIND: The National Labor and Relations Board (ph) also is looking into it, and then the SEC is the latest in that. It also is quite rare that so many agencies would be looking at these workplace culture issues. What is happening now is that federal securities regulators also are interested, which significantly ratchets up the pressure on Activision.
CORNISH: You said it ramps up the pressure, but can you talk about why the SEC has been called in? What are they investigating at this point?
GRIND: Yeah. So this is a really interesting development actually because the SEC looks at what companies are disclosing to investors and the public. So the SEC is really concerned about what the company released in terms of some of these workplace problems, right? Did they disclose them properly? Should they have told investors more? And so unlike some of the other agencies as well, they are going directly after Activision's board of directors as well as its high-level executives and its longtime CEO, Bobby Kotick.
CORNISH: How has the company responded to any of this?
GRIND: At first, when the state filed a lawsuit - the state of California in July - they kind of panned the lawsuit. And that really angered the employees, and they staged a walkout actually after that happened. And Activision had to kind of backtrack and say that they were taking the issues very seriously, they were looking into all of them. And that is what they've said to the other investigations as well, including the SEC.
CORNISH: Wall Street is not known for its sensitivity to women's issues in particular. So by that measure, how bad is Activision, so to speak? Or is this a new age in terms of how people look at companies, how shareholders look at companies?
GRIND: Well, that's a really interesting issue because you've seen regulatory agencies in recent years, and especially this year, really start to target video game companies. Now, Activision, they've gone after that company more than the others, but they've also looked at other companies for some of these same issues. The video game industry is sort of, unfortunately, notorious for some of these unfriendly cultural issues in that space. But the other interesting thing here is, yes, that the SEC is looking into it because they are typically concerned not with workplace issues like this, right? They're more concerned about disclosure and investors.
CORNISH: That's Kirsten Grind of The Wall Street Journal.
Thank you for joining us.
GRIND: Thanks so much for having me.
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