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Activision Blizzard continues to remove employees amid misconduct allegations

But CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly tried to keep a lid on the exact figures.

SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 10:  Bobby Kotick, chief executive officer of Activision Blizzard, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 10, 2019 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, and technology spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer via Getty Images
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|January 17, 2022 6:23 PM

Since July, 37 Activision Blizzard employees have been fired or forced out and another 44 have been disciplined as the company attempts to address accusations of harassment and misconduct, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal. In October, the company said more than 20 people had departed and at least another 20 had been disciplined.

The game publisher was supposed to share a summary of that information publicly before the holidays, according to the report. However, embattled CEO Bobby Kotick is said to have pulled the plug on that over concerns it would make Activision's woes seem even worse.

The spokesperson denied "the assertion regarding Mr. Kotick," as well as claims that employees had filed around 700 reports of misconduct and other issues since July, when Activision was sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The agency alleged the company fostered a "frat boy" culture where discrimination and sexual harassment were rife.

Former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, who was accused in the DFEH suit of taking "no effective remedial measures" to mitigate sexual harassment, left the company soon after the filing. Activision Blizzard's top HR executive Jesse Meschuk has departed, as have Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga, lead designer Jesse McCree (after whom an Overwatch character was previously named) and World of Warcraft designer Jonathan LeCraft.

In November, the WSJ reported that Kotick had known about many of the worst instances of abuse for years and that he may have protected some employees who were accused of harassment. Many Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout in the wake of the report and around 2,000 signed a petition calling for him to step down. The Activision board has issued a statement of support for Kotick.

Along with employees, state treasurers and investors (the share price has dropped by almost 30% since July) have expressed concern about the issues at hand. Several Activision Blizzard partners have condemned the company or reassessed their relationships with it too.

PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo chiefs criticized the company in notes to their employees. Xbox head Phil Spencer said last week that Microsoft has "changed how we do certain things with" Activision, but didn't share details. Also this month, Lego postponed an Overwatch 2 set that was supposed to arrive in February while it evaluates its partnership with Activision Blizzard.