Resurfaced video shows Activision Blizzard execs on panel that joked about over-sexualized female characters

The Activision Blizzard booth at the 2013 E3 expo in Los Angeles
  • A video showing Activision Blizzard executives joking about over-sexualized female video game characters in “World of Warcraft” resurfaced on Twitter.
  • The video resurfaced amid news the company is being sued, in a lawsuit accusing it of having a “frat boy” culture where women were routinely harassed.
  • Activision Blizzard called the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false” in a statement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video showing Activision Blizzard executives joking about over-sexualized female video game characters resurfaced this week after California sued the company, accusing the gaming giant of having a “frat boy” culture where women were routinely harassed.

The video, from 2010, shows a woman asking the executives at a panel about female characters in the online game “World of Warcraft.”

“I love the fact that you have a lot of very strong female characters, however, I was wondering if we could have some that don’t look like they’ve stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog?” the woman asked.

The panel, made up of all men, laughed and asked which catalog she would rather the characters come out of.

During the panel, J. Allen Brack – now the president of the company – makes a rocker gesture with both his hands after another panelist cracks a joke about female versions of an ox-like race in the game.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard – which produces hits like Call of Duty and Overwatch – and two of its subsidiaries on Tuesday, saying women at the company had been sexually harassed, paid less than their male counterparts, and retaliated against when they complained.

The bombshell lawsuit shocked the video game industry, with some influencers already reconsidering working with the company.

Activision Blizzard called the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false,” in a statement on Tuesday. In a memo leaked to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, Allen wrote: “I disdain ‘bro culture,’ and have spent my career fighting against it.”

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California sued gaming giant Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread harassment of female staff. A male supervisor delegated his work to a female employee so he could play Call of Duty, the suit said.

Gaming giant Activision Blizzard's silver logo on one of its storefronts.
California state has field a sex discrimination lawsuit against gaming company Activision Blizzard

  • California sued gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, alleging a “frat boy” culture.
  • A state agency said female staff were constantly sexually harassed and paid less for their work.
  • Activision Blizzard said the suit included “distorted” and “false” claims.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California’s fair employment agency filed a lawsuit against gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, accusing the Call of Duty publisher of a “pervasive frat boy” in which female employees were routinely harassed.

In one alleged incident, a “newly promoted male supervisor delegated his responsibilities to his now female subordinates in favor of playing Call of Duty,” the filing said.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard and two subsidiaries – Activision Publishing and World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment – after a two-year investigation into working conditions for female staff, Bloomberg Law first reported.

DFEH said in Tuesday’s filing to the Los Angeles Supreme Court that women at the company were discriminated against, subjected to “constant sexual harassment,” groped, paid less for “substantially similar work,” and retaliated against by company HR when they complained.

“Unsurprisingly, [the] Defendants’ ‘frat boy’ culture is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” the lawsuit said.

A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in a statement that “the picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

“The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived,” the statement said.

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” the spokesperson said.

“We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”

Read more: 52 Black ex-franchisees file a $1 billion racial-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming the company sent them on ‘financial suicide missions’

The lawsuit detailed claims that some male workers engaged in “cube crawls” where they would “drink copious amounts of alcohol” and move between cubicles in the office, often behaving inappropriately towards their female coworkers.

Some male workers made sexual advances to female employees on the World of Warcraft team, and also made derogatory comments about rape, the lawsuit claimed.

The agency said in the filing that one female Activision Blizzard worker died by suicide during a business trip. A male coworker she had previously had a sexual relationship with was also on the trip, the suit said. Police found that the male supervisor had brought a butt plug and lubricant on the trip, DFEH said.

Another employee said the woman had suffered sexual harassment at work before her death, DFEH said.

It is not clear when the trip happened. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Insider that the employee’s suicide had “no bearing whatsoever on this case.”

The lawsuit alleged that Activision Blizzard’s female workers – which it said makes up around 20% of its workforce – were also promoted more slowly, while women in executive roles earned “less salary, incentive pay, and total compensation than their male peers,” citing Activision Blizzard’s own records with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

DFEH said that it filed the suit on grounds of unequal pay, sex discrimination, unlawful sexual harassment, retaliation, and for failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The agency said it was suing in the public interest and for Activision Blizzard’s female employees.

The agency is seeking compensation and punitive damages, and unpaid and lost wages for female workers, among other demands, although did not specify how much.

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CEOs like Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are among the most overpaid CEOs, according to a new report

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the Google I/O 2016 developers conference in Mountain View, California
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a developers conference.

  • As You Sow has released its seventh annual report detailing the 100 most overpaid CEOs.
  • The top 30 CEOs on the list includes Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.
  • Nine companies have made the list every year, including Walt Disney, Goldman Sachs, and IBM.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

CEOs like Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are among the top 100 most overpaid CEOs, according to a new report from As You Sow.

It’s no secret that CEOs of S&P 500 companies make good money. However, As You Sow’s list doesn’t rank by the size of a CEO’s salary. Instead, the corporate responsibility non-profit uses different metrics to identify whether or not a CEO is being overpaid.

To do this, the study took three main factors into account: the amount of extra dollars a CEO receives based on past company performance and pay, the number of shareholders who voted against a CEO’s pay package, and the ratio comparing the executive’s compensation to the company’s median employee pay. The latter was weighed less heavily.

Coincidentally, the highest salary on the list happens to belong to the most overpaid CEO: Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, who receives a pay of $280,621,552, according to the report. To compare, the median pay of Alphabet workers sits at $258,708, which is a CEO to worker pay ratio of 1,085 to one.

Pichai is being paid an excess of $266,698,263, according to As You Sow.

Another tech giant, Microsoft, also made the list in 24th place. Satya Nadella, the head of Microsoft, earns $42,910,215. According to the study, Nadella is being paid an excess of $27,896,691.

The median pay of Microsoft’s employees is $172,512, which is a CEO to worker pay ratio of 249 to one.

Several social media companies are seen as giants in Silicon Valley, but only one was included in the report: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, in 73rd place. Zuckerberg has a pay of $23,415,973, which, according to the study, contains an excess of $9,479,977.

To compare, the median employee pay at Facebook is $247,883. This amounts to a CEO to worker pay ratio of 94 to one, lower than both Microsoft and Alphabet’s.

However, the list wasn’t just dominated by tech leaders. Bob Iger, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Lachlan Murdoch of Fox Corporation, and Miguel Patricio of the Kraft Heinz Company were all listed among the top 30 most overpaid CEOs.

And according to the study, companies that have consistently graced the list are performing worse than those that have never been mentioned. As You Sow has published this report annually since 2015, and nine CEOs have made the list every year, amounting to a total pay of $2 billion. However, these nine businesses have seen a lower annualized shareholder return compared to S&P 500 companies that have never made the overpaid CEO list.

These nine companies include: Discovery, Walt Disney, Comcast, AT&T, Goldman Sachs, IBM, McKesson, Ralph Lauren, and Regeneron.

This consistent overpaying of CEOs can signal several concerns, specifically “poor accountability, weak governance, and lack of concern for shareholder interests,” the study notes.

However, this overcompensation issue may soon be changing as more shareholders are beginning to vote against these hefty CEO paychecks, according to Rosanna Landis Weaver, the report’s author.

“We might be going into a spring where we see higher votes against pay, particularly at companies that try to insulate their executive compensation from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Weaver told Insider.

These were the top 30 most overpaid CEOs, according to As You Sow’s new report:

30. Norwegian Cruise Line – Frank Del Rio

Pay: $17,808,364

Excess: $6,617,002

Median worker pay: $16,925

29. Walgreens Boots Alliance – Stefano Pessina

Pay: $19,156,202

Excess: $7,266,357

Median worker pay: $34,074

28. HCA Healthcare – Samuel Hazen

Pay: $26,788,251

Excess: $14,094,249

Median worker pay: $56,012

27. Netflix – Reed Hastings

Pay: $38,577,129

Excess: $23,649,474

Median worker pay: $202,931

26. AT&T – Randall Stephenson

Pay: $32,032,925

Excess: $19,313,311

Median worker pay: $98,630

25. McKesson – John Hammergren

Pay: $17,400,207

Excess: $5,240,500

Median worker pay: $38,026

24. Microsoft – Satya Nadella

Pay: $42,910,215

Excess: $27,896,691

Median worker pay: $172,512

23. Linde – Stephen Angel

Pay: $66,149,325

Excess: $52,644,326

Median worker pay: $40,601

22. Coty – Pierre Laubies 

Laubies was replaced halfway through 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Pay: $16,211,992

Excess: $5,574,670

Median worker pay: $43,242

21. Mylan – Heather Bresch

Pay: $18,509,260

Excess: $7,524,895

Median worker pay: $43,367

20. Qualcomm – Steven Mollenkopf

Pay: $23,065,052

Excess: $9,744,629

Median worker pay: $90,259

19. Marathon Petroleum – Gary Heminger 

Heminger retired from the company in April 2020.

Pay: $24,129,164

Excess: $11,768,410

Median worker pay: $27,507

18. General Electric – H. Lawrence Culp Jr.

Pay: $24,553,788

Excess: $13,339,908

Median worker pay: $50,471

17. Centene – Michael Neidorff

Pay: $26,438,425

Excess: $13,257,871

Median worker pay: $68,987

16. Activision Blizzard – Robert Kotick

Pay: $30,122,896

Excess: $15,867,848

Median worker pay: $94,308

15. Fiserv – Jeffrey Yabuki

Yabuki stepped as CEO mid-2020, Marketwatch reported.

Pay: $27,601,026

Excess: $13,842,124

Median worker pay: $65,254

14. Comcast – Brian Roberts

Pay: $36,370,183

Excess: $23,330,783

Median worker pay: $78,869

13. Fidelity National Information Services – Gary Norcross

Pay: $27,658,117

Excess: $13,926,647

Median worker pay: $59,235

12. T-Mobile – John Legere

Legere stepped down as T-Mobile’s CEO at the end of April 2020.

Pay: $27,756,690

Excess: $13,798,277

Median worker pay: $62,195

11. Advanced Micro Devices – Lisa Su

Pay: $58,534,288

Excess: $40,542,122

Median worker pay: $96,874

10. Fox Corporation – Lachlan Murdoch

Pay: $42,111,103

Excess: $28,735,479

Median worker pay: not provided

9. Las Vegas Sands Corporation – Sheldon Gary Adelson

Adelson died this year and was replaced by Robert Goldstein as CEO.

Pay: $24,680,118

Excess: $11,976,674

Median worker pay: $42,228

8. Universal Health Services – Alan Miller

Pay: $24,473,240

Excess: $12,397,998

Median worker pay: $38,931

7. Intel – Robert Swan

Swan was replaced by Pat Gelsinger as CEO of Intel this month.

Pay: $66,935,100

Excess: $53,244,455

Median worker pay: $96,300

6. The Kraft Heinz Company – Miguel Patricio

Pay: $43,297,480

Excess: $31,390,609

Median worker pay: $42,689

5. The Walt Disney Company – Bob Iger

Iger stepped down as CEO of the Walt Disney Company in February 2020.

Pay: $47,517,762

Excess: $34,885,856

Median worker pay: $52,184

4. Howmet Aerospace – John Plant

Pay: $51,712,578

Excess: $39,321,473

Median worker pay: $55,497

3. CVS Health – Larry Merlo

Merlo retired from his CEO post this month.

Pay: $36,451,749

Excess: $24,311,079

Median worker pay: $46,140

2. Discovery – David Zaslav

Pay: $45,843,912

Excess: $33,823,935

Median worker pay: $79,343

1. Alphabet – Sundar Pichai

Pay: $280,621,552

Excess: $266,698,263

Median worker pay: $258,708

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