Following the announcement of the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has promised improvements to the company’s working environment.
Although it’s been nearly two months since the announcement of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, we’re still feeling the aftershocks of the earth-shattering news. At the same time, the company where Bobby Kotick is CEO (still!) has also been in the headlines for its long-running harassment cases and recent lawsuits.
The most talked-about acquisition of the year so far has raised questions about US antitrust laws, and it didn’t take long for the numbers to come out and take a closer look at the move. Now, some US senators have come forward to point out that the fate of Activision Blizzard’s employees, who already work in a toxic work environment, could get worse.
“We are concerned that this acquisition will further disenfranchise these workers and prevent their voices from being heard,” the letter to the FTC reads.
As signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Sheldon Whitehouse in a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan (via PC Gamer), the Microsoft acquisition could have negative consequences for workers: “Activision Blizzard employees have been at the forefront of demanding greater transparency and accountability in the video game industry after years of sexual misconduct, discrimination, and unfair labor practices, and we are deeply concerned that this acquisition will further disenfranchise these workers and prevent their voices from being heard.”
Therefore, the letter asks the Federal Trade Commission to assess “whether the way these companies have failed to protect the rights and dignity of their workers is monopolistic or will cause anticompetitive harm in our labor market, and if so, whether the merger will exacerbate these problems.” The message also recalls that Activision Blizzard has a confirmed toxic work environment in its offices, faces a government investigation, and refuses to recognize the union formed at Raven Software.
“The takeover appears to be a cynical and opportunistic attempt to ‘capitalize’ on Activision Blizzard’s problems” – an excerpt from the FTC letter.
“The proposed acquisition appears to be a cynical and opportunistic attempt to ‘capitalize’ on the systemic problems that have come to light at Activision Blizzard,” continues the letter, which was shared on Twitter by journalist Stephen Totilo. Recalling that negotiations between the company and Microsoft began days after the controversy was exposed, the senators believe that “while Microsoft has taken advantage of falling stock prices in the wake of revelations of sexual misconduct, it has also signalled a willingness to prioritize profits over the organization’s deep-rooted problems with gender discrimination.”
On the other hand, the letter does not ignore Microsoft’s statements in the face of all the problems revealed at Activision Blizzard. In this regard, the tech giant allows the formation of unions and has promised improvements in Activision Blizzard’s working environment, although the senators mentioned above doubt Microsoft’s resolve in these cases and urge a thorough investigation of the agreement.
“The FTC should take the above history into account when assessing the potential anticompetitive effects of the merger” – an extract from the letter to the FTC.
“The FTC should consider the above history in assessing the anticompetitive effects of this large-scale merger and carefully determine what Microsoft’s promise to ‘not stand in the way’ of the syndicate effort means. Suppose the FTC considers that the transaction is likely to increase monopoly power and worsen bargaining power between employees and the parties to the transaction. In that case, we urge it to oppose it,” the letter concludes.
For now, there is nothing to stop one of the most significant acquisitions in the entertainment industry. Indeed, Activision shareholders have already set a date to vote on the sale to Microsoft in a somewhat consultative process, although this does not mean that Bobby Kotick’s company is free of all problems. While the letter already refers to the CEO’s ‘golden parachute’ and his lack of accountability in dealing with the allegations, it also reminds us that the company has been forced to pay out millions of dollars to victims of workplace and sexual harassment.
Source: PC Gamer