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SEC investigating game publisher Activision Blizzard over sexual harassment, discrimination allegations

(The Washington Post illustration; Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Activision Blizzard over its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, the video game publisher confirmed to The Washington Post on Monday.

The SEC has subpoenaed the company and several current and former employees, according to Activision Blizzard. In a statement, the company said it was cooperating with the investigation.

Activision Blizzard is one of the world’s biggest gaming companies, with 9,500 employees worldwide, a market capitalization of more than $60 billion and hit franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

One of Activision’s largest subsidiaries, Blizzard Entertainment, founded in 1991, was named extensively in a lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) over claims of widespread sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. The DFEH sued Activision Blizzard in July, alleging the company had a “frat boy culture.” It was followed by a class-action suit from shareholders in August that claimed the company had violated federal securities laws.

Report: At Blizzard, groping, free-flowing booze and fear of retaliation tainted ‘magical’ workplace

“The SEC is investigating ‘whether’ any material information was withheld from investors, but it isn’t likely they will find anything unless we learn of new facts that implicate the heads of their various studios,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “I just don’t see an SEC investigation uncovering much more than we already know.”

The SEC declined to comment.

Last week, Activision Blizzard employees and the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a major media labor union, filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against Activision Blizzard accusing the video game company of worker intimidation and union busting. The union claims Activision Blizzard is using coercive tactics to stop employees from unionizing. On the same day, while not commenting on the unfair labor suit, the company announced the hiring of two new senior executives: Julie Hodges, a human resources executive from Disney, as chief people officer and Sandeep Dube, former revenue management executive at Delta Air Lines, as chief commercial officer.

Inside the Activision Blizzard lawsuit

On July 20, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread, gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment. Here’s what you need to know:

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