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Call of Duty maker gives clean chit to seniors over gender harassment charges

San Francisco, June 17 (IANS) Activision Blizzard, the developer behind the popular game ‘Call of Duty’ (CoD), has given a clean chit to its senior executives on gender discrimination charges after initiating an internal probe.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company said that its own board did not fail to act when presented with allegations of harassment.

“Contrary to many of the allegations, the board and its external advisors have determined that there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported,” Activision Blizzard said in the filing.

“That work also has not unearthed any evidence, directly or indirectly, suggesting any attempt by any senior executive or employee to conceal information from the Board.

“While there are some substantiated instances of gender harassment, those unfortunate circumstances do not support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the Board were aware of and tolerated gender harassment or that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation,” the company added.

The gaming company, recently acquired by Microsoft for nearly $69 billion, was in March sued by parents of an employee who died by suicide in 2017, blaming the death owing to sexual harassment.

A California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) lawsuit filed last year accused the gaming company of “fostering a culture of sexual harassment, misconduct and gender-based discrimination”.

The DFEH complaint alleged that at the holiday party before her death, “male co-workers passed around a picture of her vagina, and referenced a ‘male supervisor’ who allegedly brought sex toys with him on the business trip”, the report mentioned.

Activision Blizzard had called the DFEH lawsuit’s claims “distorted, and in many cases false”.

In the fresh US SEC filing, the company said its board and external advisors have diligently reviewed allegations by the DFEH and the media.

“That work included reviewing source documents (including contemporaneous notes from interviews with current and former Activision Blizzard employees, correspondence, and email communications), and conducting additional interviews of current and former Activision Blizzard employees,” it added.

Activision Blizzard is currently under investigation by the SEC over its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is receiving a closer look from antitrust enforcers in the US and abroad at a time when they have stepped up scrutiny of proposed mergers, especially in the tech sector.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now investigating the acquisition and how it might impact workers.

FTC chair Lina Khan has told lawmakers that the agency is looking into the Microsoft acquisition.



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