In one of our recent reports, we stated that nearly all the dirt surrounding Activision Blizzard was excavated and that newer, healthier foundations are being laid. Well, it would seem that the shady businessmen and businesswomen tried to hide another skeleton or two in the process and pour the fresh foundations over them. Figuratively speaking, of course.
As reported by Bloomberg, Assistant Chief Counsel Melanie Proctor told the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing staff members that she was resigning to protest the fact that the DFEH’s boss, Chief Counsel Janette Wipper, had been abruptly fired by California Governor Gavin Newsom. According to Destructoid, the governor’s office has been interfering with the DFEH lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, demanding advance notice of litigation strategy in a manner that mimicked the interest of Activision Blizzard’s counsel.
The resignation and loss of the top two lawyers on the DFEH’s case against Activision Blizzard raise questions about the sexual discrimination and misconduct lawsuit that sparked massive walkouts, protests, and a series of controversies for the California-based gaming giant. The lawsuit also resulted in a stock plunge that culminated with Microsoft’s pricey acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Proctor wrote that the governor’s interference increased as DFEH continued to win in state court.
Proctor also stated, in her email, that her boss Janette Wipper refused to comply and “attempted to protect” the agency’s independence in the matter, for which she was “abruptly terminated.” This happened only two weeks after Activision Blizzard reached a settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $18 million over a similar lawsuit — which is admittedly a financial footnote for a company of Activision Blizzard’s scale.
California lawyers tried to block the aforementioned settlement but were rejected by a federal judge. This ties into the ongoing chain of events, as DFEH, under Wipper’s leadership, got Riot Games, Activision Blizzard’s subsidiary, to pay $100 million last year in settlement of its own discrimination lawsuits. So, we have Activision Blizzard, who is trying to cheap out on a settlement, DFEH, who’s fighting for justice, and a political figure that removed DFEH’s strongest legal gladiator, who didn’t want to reveal its fighting strategy — does this smell like foul play? It does smell funny.
You know what they say: if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, and Activision Blizzard has been spreading its fleas almost everywhere. Why would the governor’s office need insight into litigation strategy in a high-profile lawsuit from a department that should otherwise be independent? And why was Janette Wipper removed from her position after trying to maintain the agency’s independence? More importantly, why was she removed for not disclosing legal strategies that are not yet public records?
In her email, Proctor encouraged the agency staff to continue working on the agency’s ongoing litigation to the best of their ability, though this really brings the entire affair under a big question mark. There’s a reason why Lady Justice is blindfolded; however, it would seem that her blindfold fell off and that her scales aren’t measuring evidence but money and political influence. Activision Blizzard apparently has both.