Activision Blizzard shareholders vote in favor of harassment report, despite board's objections

Giant screens displaying Activision and Blizzard logos at E3 2013.
(Image credit: Bloomberg)

In May, Activision Blizzard's board of directors urged shareholders to vote against a proposed report on the company's efforts to combat abuse, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace. The board argued that having to prepare "yet another report" would divert resources that could be more effectively used elsewhere, and furthermore "would create a set of metrics that are simply not the best measures of how the Company is responding to employee concerns." At today's annual meeting, however, shareholders rejected that argument, and voted decisively in favor of the creation of the report.

Roughly 67% of the voting shares cast their ballot in favor of the report, Activision said in a statement. But that doesn't necessarily mean the report will happen: The vote is non-binding, meaning that it's more of an advisory thing than an obligation. The board of directors, of course, said it will think about it.

"Consistent with our ongoing commitments, we will carefully consider the proposal to enhance our future disclosures. Activision Blizzard remains deeply committed to a respectful, welcoming workplace for all colleagues," the board said in a statement. "We believe that transparency with our stakeholders is critical to our commitment to the very best governance practices. The Board greatly values our stockholders’ perspectives."

The likelihood of the report being produced is anybody's guess. A 67% vote in favor signals discontent with the way that reports of longstanding misconduct at Activision Blizzard have been handled, and should probably not be ignored lightly. On the other hand, shareholders voted in line with the board's recommendation across the board otherwise, and in far more overwhelming numbers, including a near-universal rejection of a proposed employee-selected representative to the board of directors:

  • Approximately 88% of the voting shares approved the Company’s executive compensation.
  • Approximately 97% of the voting shares ratified the appointment of PwC as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm.
  • Approximately 95% of voting shares voted against the non-binding stockholder proposal regarding the nomination of an employee representative director.

The nomination of an employee representative to the Activision Blizzard board of directors was another proposal the board had urged shareholders to vote against, because allowing employees to select their own rep would "replace the careful judgment of the Board as to the criteria that should be reflected in a director candidate pool."

"The Board and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee must have discretion to determine the director criteria to best serve the shareholders of the Company, as this continuously evolving criteria is necessary to help guide the Company in achieving its strategic priorities and managing risk," the board said in its objection in May. 

"This is particularly important in light of the scope and complexity of the Company’s business. Providing non-management employees with a dedicated position on the Board utilizing a different process for Board representation or applying a different set of qualifications would adversely affect the role of the Board in this process."

The rejection of the proposed employee representative suggests that while shareholders want the company's mess cleaned up, they're happy with the status quo otherwise—which could give the board incentive to assert its authority a little bit by rejecting the board's vote in favor of annual reports on anti-harassment efforts. 

The vote comes less than one week after Activision Blizzard's board of directors announced the results of its own investigation into abuses at the company, which found "some substantiated instances of gender harassment" but concluded that overall there is no evidence that harassment, discrimination, or retaliation were ever "a systemic issue."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.