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US Senators "Deeply Concerned" About Microsoft's Proposed Deal To Buy Activision Blizzard

kingfey

Banned

A group of Democratic senators including Elizabeth Warren warned that Microsoft Corp.’s takeover of Activision Blizzard Inc. could squelch workers’ calls for accountability after years of well-documented sexual harassment at the game giant.

The Federal Trade Commission, which is conducting an antitrust review of the deal, should consider whether Microsoft’s Activision acquisition could worsen the abuse and oppose the merger if they so determine, the senators wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

“While Microsoft capitalized on lower stock prices from the sexual misconduct disclosures, they also signaled that they were willing to prioritize profits over entrenched issues of gender-based discrimination in the organization,” wrote the senators, including Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Activision Blizzard said in a statement that the acquisition won’t interrupt any actions the company has taken to improve the workplace and added that Microsoft is supportive of those goals.

Activision has been shrouded in controversy since last July after a state agency filed a sexual bias lawsuit against the Santa Monica, California-based company, describing its “frat boy culture” and accusing its leadership of failing to take action. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission later launched an investigation into how the company handled the reports of misconduct.
Under terms of the deal, Activision’s embattled Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick would remain in his job until at least next year, with a $14.5 million payout if he’s forced to resign. While Microsoft has said it won’t interfere with a union drive at Activision, the statement amounts to “little more than lip service” in the absence of legal assurances, the senators wrote.

“If the FTC determines that the transaction is likely to enhance monopsony power and worsen the negotiating position between workers and the parties to this deal, we urge you to oppose it,” the Senators wrote.

Another article


A group of four US senators is urging the Federal Trade Commission to review Microsoft's $68.7 billion deal to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard. In a letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, the senators raised concerns that the planned acquisition would undermine "calls for accountability over alleged misconduct" at Activision Blizzard, as reported earlier Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.

"We are deeply concerned about consolidation in the tech industry and its impact on workers," the letter says. The letter was sent by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat; Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent; Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat; and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

In January, Microsoft announced plans to take over scandal-plagued Activision Blizzard. The deal would make Microsoft the world's third-largest video game maker and give it control over popular franchises like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Microsoft also pledged to clean up Activision Blizzard, which has a reputation for a toxic work culture and has faced allegations of harassment and discrimination. The deal already faces lawsuits from shareholders.

On Wednesday, a judge approved an $18 million settlement between Activision Blizzard and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement ended a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in September that accused the video game company of violating the civil rights of employees by subjecting them to sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.

Activision Blizzard on Thursday said Microsoft is supportive of its efforts to create an appropriate workplace.

"The company is committed to a safe and equitable working environment for all employees and has invested significant resources to ensure we're creating a model for the industry," said an Activision Blizzard spokesperson in an emailed statement. "The transaction between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will not interrupt any of the actions the Activision Blizzard's leadership team has implemented throughout 2021 and is continuing to implement in 2022 with regards to improving our workplace."

Microsoft's Lisa Tanzi, a corporate vice president, added that the company believes Activision Blizzard will continue to make improvements and that Microsoft is "committed to further progress after the deal closes."

The senators in their letter to the FTC reportedly called out that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick will remain in his role until the deal closes in 2023 and potentially receive a large exit package, despite calls from employees and shareholders for him to resign.

The FTC and offices for the senators didn't respond to requests for comment.
 
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C2brixx

Member
Basically the CWA union got some of the more liberal Senators to release a letter. Most of their concerns aren't in the purview of the FTC's mandate of whether this transaction is an anti-competitive monopoly. Bobby Kotick's payout (he has over 4 million shares) is going to happen regardless and predicting negative workers conditions under Microsoft vs current leadership is just weird.
 

Oddvintagechap

Gold Member
Let BOBBY cashout!

At this rate they are gonna settle for Ubisoft.
 

adamsapple

Gold Member
Er... isn't Microsoft considered one of the best places to work in America? Their efforts towards inclusivity have been widely praised.
Is Warren upset Kottick didn't email her to let her know to buy in before the sale?

You're correct.

Microsoft is generally always on top of the 'best places to work at' charts in most cases.

 

Neofire

Member
Not a fan of the Democratic party and their policies especially how they the new administration has been 💩ing all on Black Americans. With that being said they definitely should look into the deal not only for the potential choke hold they could be putting the gaming industry in but also on how them buying the largest developers would change the landscape for other companies moving forward.

Alot of people across multiple platforms have enjoyed most of the games from Blizzard Activision will be cut off and that's not the multilateral contracts other developers have with them before the buyout by MS.
 
Not a fan of the Democratic party and their policies especially how they the new administration has been 💩ing all on Black Americans. With that being said they definitely should look into the deal not only for the potential choke hold they could be putting the gaming industry in but also on how them buying the largest developers would change the landscape for other companies moving forward.

Alot of people across multiple platforms have enjoyed most of the games from Blizzard Activision will be cut off and that's not the multilateral contracts other developers have with them before the buyout by MS.

TBF, Microsoft have already said that games like COD and other major ABK IPs will remain multiconsole, and probably even get Nintendo ports for at least some of them. So people aren't getting cut off there. For new IP, those may or may not be Xbox/GamePass exclusive; I'm sure some will, others might be multiplat. But that isn't necessarily any different than if they just co-funded a bunch of 3P exclusives anyway, hard to say people on other platforms will be "cut off" if it's a new IP.

There's so many other shady bits going on with ABK right now that the FTC are probably more interested in; I don't give two cents about political grandstanding especially from the Democrat side. Not just for the reasons you mentioned but also considering how many of them get money from and invest money into these same tech companies, but want to pretend they're above the money. They are the money, they're right in it xD.
 
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Topher

Gold Member
A group of US Senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are calling for greater scrutiny over Microsoft's proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard, citing concerns about the reports of misconduct at the Call of Duty giant. The Wall Street Journal first reported on this. After the publication of this story, Activision Blizzard released a statement (see it below) in which it said Microsoft is supportive of Activision Blizzard's "goals and the work being done" to improve company culture.

The US Senators--including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Sheldon Whitehouse--wrote their letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan. The lawmakers said the FTC ought to find out if Microsoft's proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard could "exacerbate the flurry of sexual-abuse, harassment and retaliation allegations at Activision stemming from recent federal and state investigations."

Just this week, a judge approved Activision Blizzard's settlement over workplace culture issues that will see the company create an $18 million fund to compensate and make amends to affected workers. This was just one of the lawsuits Activision Blizzard is facing regarding its workplace issues.

The senators also said they are concerned that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, who himself has been accused of knowing about and covering up instances of sexual harassment and other abuse, will remain with the company and potentially earn a massive payout under the terms of the deal. It's been reported that Kotick will leave after the deal goes through.

It's a rule that mergers of a significant size must be approved by the US government over antitrust matters, so a review was always going to happen. But the senators are submitting their feedback separate from that and to cite their own specific concerns. The WSJ previously reported that Khan, the FTC chair, would specifically look into whether or not Microsoft's proposed buyout of Activision Blizzard would "substantially lessen competition."

"We are deeply concerned about consolidation in the tech industry and its impact on workers," the Democratic Senators said in their letter, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, believes that the deal will go through, which is not a surprise. He said in an interview that, if the deal should materialize, Microsoft will still be number three in terms of market share.

A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard sent along a statement in response to the US Senators lobbying the FTC to scrutinize the Microsoft/Activision Blizzard deal. You can read the full statement below.

"On Tuesday, the federal court approved a settlement agreement between Activision Blizzard and the EEOC that includes an $18M fund to compensate eligible claimants and to bolster enhancements to policies, practices, and training to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace, among other commitments. The company is committed to a safe and equitable working environment for all employees and has invested significant resources to ensure we’re creating a model for the industry. The transaction between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will not interrupt any of the actions the Activision Blizzard’s leadership team has implemented throughout 2021 and is continuing to implement in 2022 with regards to improving our workplace. Activision Blizzard’s leadership team has discussed the company’s goals at length with Microsoft, and Microsoft has reviewed the renewed culture commitment and actions Activision Blizzard have done so far, and the efforts they've undertaken. Microsoft is supportive of the goals and the work being done. This is a compelling transaction for all stakeholders, including employees.

"No additional special compensation arrangements for Mr. Kotick were entered into in connection with the transaction. Mr. Kotick's base salary has been reduced to California's minimum annual salary (which is approximately $62,500 for 2022), and he will not be awarded any bonuses or equity grants until the Workplace Responsibility Committee of the Activision Blizzard Board of Directors has determined that Activision Blizzard has made appropriate progress toward achievement of the transformational gender-related goals and other commitments described in such announcement."

Microsoft is looking to pay $68.7 billion to acquire Activision Blizzard as part of the technology giant's biggest acquisition of all time. It would be just the latest big buyout from Microsoft, which purchased ZeniMax in 2021 for $7.5 billion.



not April Fools stuff.....

This looks like political posturing to me frankly.
 
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reksveks

Member
Don't think Bobby's payout will and should be one of the factor that the FTC looks at but ehh.

It's quite interesting that Microsoft has generally been ranked alot higher in terms of employee happiness, publicly more ambiguous on unionisation and also supportive of vaccine mandates for people who come into the office.

Compare that to ABK?
 

reksveks

Member
Sometimes I wonder if Elizabeth "break up big tech" Warren is working for China. Just trying to make it easier for Tencent to scoop up everything.

Sorry if this is too political.
Certain companies should probably be broken up and certain laws around app stores should be passed but Microsoft and Activision isn't on the top of the list at the moment. (China coincidentally is more aggressively domestically on this topic)

The Chinese threat can be dealt with other methods.
 

Excess

Member
"Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Sheldon Whitehouse"

Is this their new pet project?
 

reksveks

Member
That's like Rafael "The Zodiac Killer" Cruz trying to implement term limits in the Senate. They know it's never happening so why not act like you "tried".
I like to be optimistic that some of the politicians are genuine and think Warren's track record in terms of being against big tech gives me faith that it isn't a fake position. On this topic, think she has been a bit short sighted. I think the Open App Market Act is probably the first step to implement re Big Tech and then slowly building up to something like the DMA.
 
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