Activision Blizzard to pay $35 million over U.S. SEC charges

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on Friday that Activision Blizzard had agreed to pay $35 million to resolve allegations that it had broken whistleblower protection rules and failed to have mechanisms to manage disclosures of employee grievances properly.

The SEC’s order states that between 2018 and 2021, Activision Blizzard was aware that employee motivation, retention, and attraction posed a significant risk to its operations, but it lacked controls and procedures across its various business units to gather and examine employee claims of workplace misconduct.

Further findings of the SEC revealed that Activision Blizzard violated the Commission’s whistleblower protection rule between 2016 and 2021 by requiring former employees to notify the business if they received a request for information from the Commission’s staff.

Director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office, Jason Burt, said, “The SEC’s order finds that Activision Blizzard failed to implement necessary controls to collect and review employee complaints about workplace misconduct, which left it without the means to determine whether larger issues existed that needed to be disclosed to investors,” in the official release.

“Moreover, taking action to impede former employees from communicating directly with the Commission staff about a possible securities law violation is not only bad corporate governance, but it is also illegal,” Burt added.

According to the SEC’s ruling, Activision Blizzard broke Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(a) and 21F-17 (a). The company did not agree nor deny the SEC’s findings and has agreed to a cease and desist order.

The statement comes during a time of one of the biggest deals in gaming history, which can be one of the reasons why Activision readily agreed to the settlement. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard executives plan to complete the deal by June 2023.