In light of a recently filed lawsuit alleging widespread gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment towards women, things are, once again, looking grim for Activision Blizzard. In recent weeks, its employees organized protests and walkouts, supported by the gaming community worldwide. Certain executives have stepped down to “pursue new opportunities”. Now, Activision Blizzard is being served once again. The company faces a second lawsuit, in addition to the first one filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
A class-action lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court of Central California alleges that Activision Blizzard’s deliberately failed to disclose its ongoing problem with sexual harassment and discrimination to artificially inflate the company’s stock value, as reported by Kotaku. What this means in plain English is that if investors knew the extent of Activision Blizzard’s issues, they wouldn’t have invested in the company’s stock. This could very well mean that Activision Blizzard willfully refused to make its internal issues public to avoid the further decline of its stocks – a point which arguably needs no proof.
An American showman and politician, P.T. Barnum, once said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. However, the recent publicity surrounding Activision Blizzard is evidently bad for business, as we can see from the decline of its stocks, following the initial lawsuit filed by DFEH on June 21 over workplace culture that fostered years of discrimination and abuse targeted at female employees. The class-action suit, filed by Los Angeles’ The Rosen Law Firm on behalf of Activision Blizzard’s investors, seeks damages based on Activision Blizzard’s violation of federal laws by issuing false and misleading statements during the class action period.
Besides naming Activision Blizzard as a defendant, the class action suit also names CEO Bobby Kotick, CFO Dennis Durkin, and former CFO Spencer Neumann, as they were instrumental in the spreading of false information, which came in the form of Activision Blizzard’s annual SOX certifications. The purpose of these certifications, signed by the company’s executives, is to disclose any potential legal issues, investigations, audits, and other legal procedures that might affect business value.
These certifications protect the investors from any erroneous and fraudulent activities by publically traded companies like Activision Blizzard. Furthermore, any SOX certifications issued by the company, and signed by its executives, since 2016 knowingly left out any information regarding the company’s issues of widespread sexual discrimination and workplace harassment, giving investors legal ground for monetary reparations.
Activision Blizzard has been the target of public scrutiny, not just within gaming communities but also in the general public. Besides the plummet in its stock value, the aftermath of the initial lawsuit filed by DFEH included employee walkouts, in-game and real-life protests, and massively organized log-offs. In more recent news, the Blizzard President J. Allen Brack resigned his position at the company to “pursue new opportunities,” which could be interpreted as code for “rats fleeing a sinking ship.” If he signed any of the aforementioned SOX certifications, his name could appear in more than one lawsuit. In any case, it would seem that The Rosen Law Firm and DFEH have a pretty nasty legal knot to untangle.