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Activision Blizzard sued for wrongful death by family of employee who killed herself

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Activision Blizzard, the embattled gaming giant that Microsoft recently agreed to buy for nearly $69 billion, is being sued by the family of an employee who died by suicide, with the family blaming the woman’s death on sexual harassment and claiming that a supervisor then lied to detectives about his relationship with her, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post.

The complaint, dated Thursday and filed by the parents of Kerri Moynihan, a 32-year-old finance manager at Activision Blizzard when she was found dead during a company retreat in 2017, claims that sexual harassment was a “significant factor” leading to her death.

Moynihan was first referenced, though not by name, in a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit filed last July that accused the company of fostering a culture of sexual harassment, misconduct and gender-based discrimination.

The DFEH complaint’s allegations included that at the holiday party before her death, male co-workers passed around a picture of her vagina, and referenced a “male supervisor” who allegedly brought sex toys with him on the business trip.

Activision Blizzard last year called the DFEH lawsuit’s claims “distorted, and in many cases false,” and criticized the state department for including mention of the suicide: “We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family."

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The family’s wrongful death lawsuit, which indicates it was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Paul and Janet Moynihan, claims that their daughter’s boss, Greg Restituito, initially lied to investigators in the Anaheim Police Department who were looking into her death in a hotel room at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, concealing that he had a sexual relationship with Moynihan. Restituito did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

According to the complaint, Restituito also made apparent efforts to hide evidence of his relationship with Moynihan following her death. An alleged police report cited in the complaint also noted that Restituito made “seemingly unusual inquiries with other employees who were present with [Kerri] the night preceding her death.”

According to a LinkedIn profile, Restituito worked as a senior finance director for Activision Blizzard until May 2017, the month after Moynihan’s death. Restituito did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The parents’ lawyers, Jeffrey Isaacs and Adam Kargman, provided a copy of the complaint but had no further comment.

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According to the lawsuit, Activision Blizzard then refused to turn over to police Moynihan’s company-issued laptop, said that her cellphone had been “wiped,” and also refused to give them access to Restituito’s laptop or cellphone.

The Anaheim Police Department has refused to disclose reports concerning Moynihan’s death to The Post. An autopsy report released by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner showed that Moynihan’s death was determined to be a suicide.

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson declined to respond directly to the allegations in the lawsuit, instead saying in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ms. Moynihan, who was a valued member of the company. We will address the complaint through the legal process as appropriate, and out of respect for the family we have no further comment at this time.”

The lawsuit by Moynihan’s family adds to a growing scandal over sexual harassment and discrimination which has enveloped Activision Blizzard since last year. It’s one of the world’s biggest gaming companies, with nearly 10,000 employees producing hit franchises like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft,” but its arranged sale to Microsoft stunned the industry and followed a series of allegations against the company.

Following the filing of the DFEH lawsuit, which alleged a “frat boy culture” at the company, the Wall Street Journal reported in November that CEO Bobby Kotick failed to inform its board of directors about incidents of sexual harassment. Kotick, a pugnacious magnate with a reputation for big profits leaving behind a trail of aggrieved employees, is expected to resign when the sale to Microsoft closes next year.

Activision Blizzard is also currently under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, and the company was sued last year for alleged worker intimidation and union-busting.

According to her parents’ lawsuit, Moynihan, a Massachusetts native and licensed certified public accountant, had worked at Activision Blizzard since 2011. During the corporate retreat on the early morning of April 27, 2017, the suit claims, Moynihan spoke with Restituito in the lobby of the Grand Californian. According to the suit, Restituito then texted her: “Please don’t do that. Not tonight. Think about it and make your decision when your mind is clear.”

Moynihan died in her hotel room roughly a half-hour later, the suit claims.

The suit refers to an ensuing “coverup” by Restituito and Activision. The complaint claims that Retituito’s hotel key card was found in Moynihan’s room, but that when he was interviewed by detectives, he “concealed the fact that he had been having a sexual relationship" with her, and also lied about why he had a key to her apartment.

The suit claims that Moynihan’s parents were unaware of the alleged sexual harassment of their deceased daughter until the California DFEH filed its lawsuit last summer and that Activision supervisors including Restituito “knew or should have known” that she was being sexually harassed but “failed and refused to take immediate corrective action.”

“The harassment to which Kerri was subjected was a substantial factor in causing harm to Kerri... tragically culminating in Kerri’s death at the age of 32,” the suit reads.

The lawsuit also criticizes Anaheim police for a “perfunctory and incomplete investigation" — including allegedly failing to dust for fingerprints or question Retituito about the text message preceding her death — "that left many unanswered questions.”

“We stand by our investigation," Anaheim PD spokesman Sgt. Shane Carringer said.