Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Image: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The pressure on Activision Blizzard to make meaningful change over harassment allegations, unequal pay and other workplace issues is intensifying, as treasurers from California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada are calling on the company to take action.

Why it matters: The game-maker, which is already facing lawsuits and investigations, is now hearing from state treasurers who aren’t afraid to utilize billions of dollars of investments, often through pension funds, as a way to trigger corporate change.

  • In a Nov. 23 letter, reported here for the first time, the treasurers asked Activision Blizzard’s board of directors for a meeting “to discuss your response to the challenges and investment risk exposures that face Activision.”
  • The treasurers noted that they would “weigh” a “call to vote against the re-election of incumbent directors.”
  • That call was made earlier in November by activist shareholder group SOC. The group said Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick should resign and threatened to vote against members of the board next year.

What they’re saying: “We think there needs to be sweeping changes made in the company,” Illinois state treasurer Michael Frerichs told Axios.

  • He cited accounts from the past few months involving harassment allegations and unequal pay at Activision Blizzard as well as a November Wall Street Journal investigation that said Kotick downplayed sexual misconduct allegations at the company.
  • “We're concerned that the current CEO and board directors don't have the skillset, nor the conviction to institute these sweeping changes needed to transform their culture, to restore trust with employees and shareholders and their partners,” Frerichs said.
  • “This particular case has been waiting for the board to step in and do an investigation,” Massachusetts treasurer Deborah Goldberg told Axios. “A true investigation, an outside investigator. And, I mean, what was it, two weeks ago that they said they stand by the CEO?”

Activision declined to comment. But a rep for SOC said the company replied to the letter yesterday to figure out next steps.

Between the lines: The treasurers manage about a trillion dollars in assets, but it’s unclear how much Activision stock — and therefore how much voting power —they have.

  • Frerichs confirmed that Illinois has investments in Activision Blizzard and is therefore impacted by the company’s plummeting stock price, but declined to say how much.
  • “One thing the Treasurers bring is also a bit of a spotlight here and a little public pressure as well,” he said. “So it's not all just about the number of dollars and number of shares that we have.“

The big picture: It’s new for treasurers to be targeting a gaming company, but this type of action has plenty of precedent.

  • A year ago, New York state announced plans to divest its $226 billion pension fund from fossil fuel companies.
  • Last month, Massachusetts’ Goldberg said her state would use its investments to pressure companies to enact better climate policies.
  • Goldberg supports engagement, arguing that divestment abandons the issues and the companies’ employees. “If you don't have a seat at the table, you don't have a seat at the table,” she told Axios

What’s next: The treasurers want a meeting with Activision by Dec. 20.

  • The company’s board could point to its proposed settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a sign it is serious. It includes an $18 million victims fund and a commitment to EEOC oversight for the next three years.
  • “I look at that as a penalty, as perhaps an admission of wrongs in the past,” Frerichs said.
  • “But we're long-term investors and we want to see those risks that caused that penalty addressed, so they don't happen again. You can point to, ‘Hey, we paid the victims, we're making them whole.’ But if you're continuing a culture that creates new victims in the future, you are creating more risk for your company," he added.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jan 13, 2022 - Technology

Microsoft to review harassment policies, including Gates allegations

Photo: Getty Images

Microsoft said on Thursday that it is launching a review of its policies and practices regarding sexual harassment and gender discrimination, with plans to issue a public report expected this spring.

Of note: Microsoft says the report will summarize the results of any investigations of potential sexual harassment by board members and senior executives — including the board's look into allegations made against co-founder Bill Gates.

Updated 6 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.