Senators concerned about Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard
Four US senators have voiced concerns about Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, urging the Federal Trade Commission to consider the impact on workers before approving the proposed merger. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Cory Booke raised this in a joint letter to the FTC chair yesterday. Considering that Actiblizz are facing many, many, many accusations of discriminatory and abusive working conditions, and that the CEO who reportedly intervened to protect one alleged harasser is still happily with the company, they’re worried that the merger might make things worse.
“Workers at Activision Blizzard, following years of rampant sexual misconduct and discrimination and unfair labor practices, have led calls for greater transparency and accountability in the gaming industry, and we are deeply concerned that this acquisition could further disenfranchise these workers and prevent their voices from being heard,” the four said in their letter to FTC chair Lina Khan.
“As this proposed deal moves forward in the review process, the [FTC] should assess whether the ways in which these companies have failed to protect the rights and dignity of their workers are driven by monopsony power or amount to anticompetitive harms in our labor market, and if so, if the merger will exacerbate these problems.”
You betcha they’re wary that the acquisition might interfere with unionisation, beyond how Activision Blizzard are already opposing the efforts of Raven Software QA workers to form a union. Microsoft recently said that they would honor the outcome of that effort but the senators urge caution and consideration.
The senators are also concerned that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is staying on through the merger and could walk away with a “golden parachute” worth millions of dollars, despite walkouts and petitions from employees and calls from shareholders wanting him out.
“This lack of accountability, despite shareholders, employees, and the public calling for Kotick to be held responsible for the culture he created, would be an unacceptable result of the proposed Microsoft acquisition,” the letter says.
Activision Blizzard have responded saying don’t worry, it’s cool, they’re going to be good.
“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,” Actiblizz PR said in a statement to CNET. “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.”
Well, if they say so!
The senators’ letter also plugged a proposed bill co-sponsored by Warren which would require the merger approval process to consider impact on workers, as well as ban the “biggest” mergers and give government new powers to break up monopolies.