Activision Blizzard tells shareholders to vote against proposed harassment and discrimination report
The company says it should “focus its energy” on “directly responding to employee concerns”
Activision Blizzard has told its shareholders they should vote against proposals that it make a report on the company’s efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination.
The company will be holding an annual meeting of shareholders on June 21, and sent a notice to all shareholders advising them of the five proposals that will be voted on at the meeting (as reported by Axios).
Of those five proposals, the board has recommended that shareholders approve of three – election of its directors, approval of executive compensation and ratification of the company’s public accounting firm.
However, it has also recommended that they vote against two other proposals – the “nomination of an employee representative director”, and “the preparation of a report about the company’s efforts to prevent abuse harassment and discrimination”.
According to the document, the latter proposal was submitted by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which has over 1.5 million shares in the company (currently valued at around $121 million).
The proposal states that Activision Blizzard should prepare an annual public report “describing and quantifying the effectiveness and outcomes of company efforts to prevent abuse, harassment and discrimination against protected classes of employees”.
It wants the report to detail the company’s progress on a number of factors, including:
- total number and aggregate dollar amount of disputes settled by Activision Blizzard related to sexual abuse, harassment or discrimination
- reducing the average length of time it takes to resolve complaints (either internally or through litigation)
- total number of pending sexual abuse, harassment or discrimination complaints the company has to resolve (either internally or through litigation)
- consolidated data on pay and hours worked
However, Activision Blizzard has told shareholders it should vote against the proposal, claiming it would be a waste of resources.
“First, the Board believes that, rather than diverting energy and resources toward creating yet another report, we should continue to directly respond to employee concerns,” it says. “Focusing all our attention on these concerns is the best way quickly and effectively to create genuine change in our workplace.
“Second, the proposed report itself, even if completed after significant time and expense, would create a set of metrics that are simply not the best measures of how the Company is responding to employee concerns.
“The Board is committed to measuring the speed and effectiveness of our changes accurately, not based on metrics that are not precisely tailored to our Company’s situation.
“As such, the Company is of the view that continuing to focus its efforts on responding directly to employee concerns and continuing to implement workplace improvements is the best path forward.”
Later in the document it claims “the proposal is premised, in part, on an unsupported and, we believe, inaccurate and substantially overstated assessment of hypothetical liability calculated by an attorney in a filing made on behalf of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.”
It also stresses that even if shareholders do vote for the proposal, it won’t necessarily commit to making the report anyway.
“While our Board believes that the views of the Company’s shareholders are of the utmost importance and will carefully consider the outcome of the vote expressed by our shareholders when making future disclosure decisions, the vote will not be binding upon them,” it says.
“Our Board ultimately has a duty to act in what it believes to be the best interests of the Company and all its shareholders.”
Activision Blizzard’s board has faced criticism for its ongoing support of CEO Bobby Kotick, who has survived widespread calls for his resignation as the company battles a number of sexual misconduct and harassment lawsuits.
The company is currently trying to clean up its image ahead of plans to merge with Microsoft in a $68.7 billion deal.
The proposed acquisition is being scrutinised by the US Federal Trade Commission, which is conducting an antitrust review to determine whether the takeover would give Xbox an unfair competitive advantage.
Earlier this month Activision Blizzard appointed Kristen Hines as its new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
It said she will play a leading role in helping the company deliver on its commitment to grow the number of women and non-binary people in its workforce by 50 percent over the next five years.