Robert ‘Bobby’ Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard Inc., speaks during an interview in New York, U.S. Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. Activision Blizzard Inc., controlled by Vivendi SA, based in Paris, released “Call of Duty: Black Ops” worldwide yesterday and is planning a new version of its “World of Warcraft” game in December.
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images
ActivisionBlizzard Shareholders on Tuesday rejected management’s recommendation and approved a proposed public report on the effectiveness of the video game publisher’s attempts to reduce employee abuse, discrimination and harassment.
This is the latest round of pressure against Activision Blizzard over allegations of employee abuse. In March, female employees claimed to have suffered harassment as a judge approved a settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the agency found evidence of sexual harassment, pregnancy-related discrimination and related retaliation at the company.
The shareholder proposal called for a report detailing the number of cases and the amount of money the company has spent settling claims of sexual abuse, discrimination or harassment of protected classes of employees over the past three years. The proposal also stated that the report should include information on current cases, as well as data on compensation and the number of hours worked by employees. The Washington Post reported the results of the vote earlier.
“A report such as the one requested would help shareholders assess whether the company is improving its management of the workforce, whether its actions align with the company’s public statements, and whether it remains a sustainable investment,” wrote the New York State Common Retirement Fund in its proposal. “Violations of civil rights in the workplace, including but not limited to sexual abuse, harassment, and discrimination, can result in substantial costs to businesses, including fines, penalties, fees legal fees, absenteeism costs and reduced productivity.”
Activision Blizzard’s board of directors opposed the proposal, saying producing another report would consume resources. The board argued that this would put forward metrics that were not the best way to track how the company dealt with employee concerns.
After proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis expressed support for the initiative, citing news reports alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation against women, the company pushed back, saying such articles should not form the basis of a shareholder proposal. Institutional Shareholder Services also recommended the proposal, noting that the company does not appear to follow best practices in disclosing its diversity, equity and inclusion goals.
Last week, the independent directors of Activision Blizzard said the board and advisors found that “there is no evidence to suggest that Activision Blizzard senior executives ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay instances of gender-based harassment that occurred and were reported “. The Wall Street Journal had reported in November that the company’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, had received information about the harassment but had not shared all relevant information with the board of directors.
Leading fund managers have become more united environmental and social initiatives that have been presented to them, allowing the adoption of proposals that they may have previously rejected.
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