California’s lawsuit against Activision Blizzard has taken a new turn. A new report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier details allegations that the California governor is increasingly interfering in the lawsuit.
The case’s lead attorney, Janette Wipper, was fired by Governor Gavin Newsom. Another lawyer, Melanie Proctor, the assistant attorney general, resigned this week to protest her boss’ firing. These two lawyers had left their role in the lawsuit this month, without explanation at the time.
The ongoing case against Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is still pending. The state agency recently attempted to block the company’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but a federal judge denied the attempt and ultimately ruled approved the deal, thus giving way to Activision Blizzard.
In this case, the departure of the two main lawyers and the allegations of interference raise questions about the future of the trial. Mr. Proctor sent an email (cited in the Bloomberg report) in which it is alleged that Mr. Newsom “repeatedly asked to be informed in advance of the strategy of the litigation and the next steps of it. this. As we continued to win in state court, this interference grew, mimicking the interests of Activision’s attorney,” she wrote. Furthermore, she stated that Janette Wipper had worked and tried to maintain the independence of the DFEH, which resulted in her being fired.
A representative for Newsom gave a statement denying the allegations and said Newsom “will continue to support DFEH in its efforts to combat all forms of discrimination and protect Californians.” The DFEH issued a similar statement, saying it will continue to enforce state civil rights and housing laws.
Activision Blizzard, which just this week announced the hiring of Kristen Hines as its chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, is being considered for acquisition by Microsoft. The company admitted to its hiring shortcomings and, as part of EEOC regulations and official company statements, promised to do better to meet diversity goals and create a more welcoming workplace culture.