Facebook denies using coercive tactics to silence Bobby Kotick allegations

Activision's board of directors "continues to have full confidence in Mr. Kotick's leadership"

Facebook has released a statement denying allegations of COO Sheryl Sandberg  threatening ongoing business relationships with a British newspaper over two stories concerning allegations against Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.

It comes after a Wall Street Journal report that claims Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg used her influence to bury two stories (one in 2016, another in 2019) about a restraining order filed against Kotick in 2014 by an ex-girlfriend who claimed he “harassed her at her home.” Three weeks after it was filed, the order was pulled from court records, reportedly at the request of both parties.

​​“I told the Wall Street Journal that what I said eight years ago about Bobby was false. It is still false. In fact, in 2014, I signed a sworn statement making clear that what I had said was untrue,” the woman told Kotaku through a representative.

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Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Image credit: Getty Images
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. Image credit: Getty Images

According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2016 The Daily Mail obtained a copy of the restraining order and planned to run a story about it. Sandberg, who was dating Kotick at the time, allegedly reached out and informed the paper that the woman in question had retracted her initial statement. The Daily Mail did not run the story. The same thing happened again in 2019.

The Wall Street Journal claims that Sandberg said publishing the story could put the publication’s “business relationship” with Facebook in jeopardy.

However Meta has now released a statement, via Insider, that reads: “Sheryl Sandberg never threatened the MailOnline‘s business relationship with Facebook in order to influence an editorial decision. (The Wall Street Journal’s) story attempts to make connections that don’t exist.”

Activision’s board of directors have also released a statement: “The board, through its counsel Skadden Arps, has done a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances of the events, satisfied itself that there was no merit to the allegations, and notes that they concern a personal relationship that has nothing to do with the business of the company.”

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick
Credit Getty Images/
Drew Angerer

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“The board continues to have full confidence in Mr. Kotick’s leadership and his ability to run the company.”

It comes as last year, a report alleged that Kotick was not only aware of sexual misconduct claims within the company since 2018, but he also reportedly told his assistant that he would “have her killed” in a voicemail left in 2006.

The report also suggested that Bobby Kotick played a first-hand part in the culture that has embroiled Activision in sexual harassment lawsuits and investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In response, Kotick claimed the report “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership”.

Kotick continues to run Activision Blizzard but may only do so until the takeover deal with Microsoft is closed.

“Post close I will be available as needed”, Kotick is reported to have said earlier this year.

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