US senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse and Cory Booker have sent a letter to the FTC that calls out CEO Bobby Kotick and his continuing role at the company.
In a letter addressed to FTC chairwoman Lina Khan — as reported by The Wall Street Journal — the senators ask to investigate the planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft and the potential degradation of workplace conditions at the company under Bobby Kotick.
The letter calls out CEO Bobby Kotick’s continuing role at the company and his “golden parachute” — which is to say the potential to emerge from the acquisition unscathed by revelations that a toxic workplace culture flourished under his leadership at Activision Blizzard — saying that a failure to hold Kotick accountable would be an “unacceptable result” of the acquisition.
“Workers at Activision Blizzard, following years of rampant sexual misconduct and discrimination and unfair labor practices, have led calls for greater transparency and accountability in the gaming industry, and we are deeply concerned that this acquisition could further disenfranchise these workers and prevent their voices from being heard,” reads the letter.
“As this proposed deal moves forward in the review process, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should assess whether the ways in which these companies have failed to protect the rights and dignity of their workers are driven by monopsony power or amount to anticompetitive harms in our labor market, and if so, if the merger will exacerbate these problems.”
1,800 Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter calling for Bobby Kotick to step down. But with Microsoft, Kotick is effectively under protection by the terms of the acquisition, which retain him as a CEO until 2023 and unless things change, he’s ensured a massive payday when he does eventually leave.
In an email sent to PC Gamer, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson with noted the recent approval of the company’s EEOC settlement and said that the Microsoft acquisition “will not interrupt any of the actions the Activision Blizzard’s leadership team has implemented throughout 2021 and is continuing to implement in 2022 with regards to improving our workplace.”
“Activision Blizzard’s leadership team has discussed the company’s goals at length with Microsoft, and Microsoft has reviewed the renewed culture commitment and actions Activision Blizzard have done so far, and the efforts they’ve undertaken,” the spokesperson said. “Microsoft is supportive of the goals and the work being done. This is a compelling transaction for all stakeholders, including employees.”
“No additional special compensation arrangements for Mr. Kotick were entered into in connection with the transaction. Mr. Kotick’s base salary has been reduced to California’s minimum annual salary (which is approximately $62,500 for 2022), and he will not be awarded any bonuses or equity grants until the Workplace Responsibility Committee of the Activision Blizzard Board of Directors has determined that Activision Blizzard has made appropriate progress toward achievement of the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described in such announcement.”