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Axios visuals

Video game giant Activision Blizzard filed a lawsuit against Netflix in a California court Friday alleging that the entertainment giant broke the law when it hired away Activision's chief financial officer Spencer Neumann last January.

Why it matters: The lawsuit alleges Netflix offered to pay Neumann's legal fees if he broke his contract, painting the portrait of a corporation willing to go to great lengths to poach star talent.

Details: The lawsuit targets Netflix for three alleged actions, according to a copy obtained by Axios:

  1. It asserts that Netflix participated in "intentional interference" of Neumann's contract by offering to pay Neumann in advance to cover his legal fees for breaking his contract with Activision. "Netflix unapologetically recruits talent without regard to its ethical and legal obligations," the lawsuit says.
  2. It alleges unfair competition on Netflix's part in hiring away Neumann because Netflix has spoken publicly about getting into the esports space. "Defendants engaged in this tortious conduct at a time when Netflix was seeking to increase its gaming content to compete with Activision, and Activision was executing on a long-term strategy to expand its linear media content by negotiating with Netflix for distribution of this content, in which Neumann was deeply involved," the lawsuit says.
  3. It accuses Netflix of aiding and abetting Neumann's breach of his fiduciary duty to Activision: "During his employment with Activision, Neumann was the CFO of Activision. As such, Neumann owed fiduciary duties to Activision during the time that he was employed by Activision."

Be smart: Activision Blizzard announced it fired Neumann just hours ahead of his new job being announced with Netflix in January 2019.

  • The attorney representing Activision is acclaimed lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, who defended AT&T against the DOJ's Time Warner merger lawsuit in 2018.

The big picture: Talent disputes happen all the time between big corporations, especially in Silicon Valley. But the lawsuit is notable in that it speaks to Netflix's aggressiveness when it comes to procuring talent, and its ambitions to get into the esports and gaming spaces.

Netflix did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
8 mins ago - Economy & Business

Stock buybacks are kicking back into high gear

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was expected that with the economy improving and company balance sheets already loaded with cash, U.S. firms would slow down their debt issuance in 2021 after setting records in 2020. But just the opposite has happened.

Why it matters: Companies generally issue bonds for one of two reasons — because they're worried about not having enough cash to cover their expenses or because they want to lever up and make risky bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
56 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk."