While Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has been defending his company against harassment allegations that have led to an employee walkout and a lawsuit by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a new report from the Wall Street Journal alleges he has been aware of the issue for years, but withheld it from Activision’s board of directors.
The Journal reports Kotick has told directors and executives that he wasn’t aware of many of the misconduct allegations that have surfaced in recent months. However, the publication says memos, emails, and more show that he was aware of claims from many parts of the company, including one alleged rape of a former female employee at Sledgehammer Games by her male supervisor.
Activision reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman, but Kotick did not inform the board of directors about the alleged rape or the settlement, says the Journal.
Activision Blizzard, in a statement, called the report “inaccurate and misleading.”
“We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents an inaccurate and misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO,” a company spokesperson said. “Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace, and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their—and our—values.”
That recalcitrance to discuss matters with the board continued in 2018, according to the report, when regulators began to investigate claims of employee misconduct. Kotick has been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to discuss the alleged events, what he knew and when, as well as what he told other employees.
In an open letter to employees last month, Kotick acknowledged the company’s initial response to the allegations was “tone-deaf” and asked the board to reduce his total compensation to $62,500, the lowest amount allowed for someone earning a salary under California law.
Activision was sued in July by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing following a two-year investigation that alleged the company fostered a “frat boy” culture that led to widespread gender-based discrimination and harassment and named several high-level executives. The company is also the subject of multiple federal investigations from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The company settled the EEOC investigation for $18 million.
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