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Blizzard Entertainment Lawyer Exits Amid SEC Workplace Probe (1)

Sept. 21, 2021, 3:02 PMUpdated: Sept. 21, 2021, 5:09 PM

Blizzard Entertainment Inc.’s chief legal officer Claire Hart has left the company as its corporate parent Activision Blizzard Inc. faces scrutiny over accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

“After more than three years at Blizzard Entertainment, I have decided to move on to my next adventure,” Hart wrote Monday on LinkedIn. “Friday was my last day.”

Hart joined Blizzard as its top lawyer in 2018. She is a former senior associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York and Silicon Valley who also spent more than a decade in-house at Google parent Alphabet Inc.

Activision told Bloomberg News Monday that its has been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is investigating disclosures made by the Santa Monica-based company related to workplace issues. Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, stepped down in August along with Blizzard’s former top human resources executive, after a California state agency accused the company of fostering a “frat boy culture” of harassment and discrimination.

Hart didn’t respond to a request for comment about her departure. A separate inquiry sent to Hart’s Blizzard email address confirmed that she is no longer at the company and referred legal matters to Activision general counsel Terri Durham and vice president of legal Mary Tuck.

Activision spokesman Andrew Reynolds confirmed Hart’s exit and said it is not related to the company’s workplace issues. Hart’s “various global responsibilities were reassigned,” with Durham now leading the Blizzard legal team in Irvine and Activision’s publishing team in nearby Santa Monica, Calif., he said.

“The past three years have been full of unexpected twists and turns, but I feel honored to have worked with and met so many great people at Blizzard and across the Activision Blizzard businesses,” Hart added in her LinkedIn post. “I’ll be taking a short break before announcing my next move. Stay tuned!”

News of Hart’s resignation was first reported by PC Gamer, a trade publication. Blizzard, an Irvine, Calif.-based video game developer and publisher, merged in 2008 with what was then Activision Inc.

In July, Activision hired the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr to handle an internal inquiry into its workplace culture follow employee allegations of widespread inappropriate conduct.

A month earlier, Activision’s longtime chief legal officer Christopher Walther announced his retirement. Walther has been replaced by Grant Dixton, a former general counsel and corporate secretary at aerospace giant the Boeing Co.

Activision also hired Frances Townsend, a former Baker Botts partner and Homeland Security adviser during the George W. Bush administration, in March to be an executive vice president for corporate affairs, chief compliance officer, and company secretary.

Townsend spent the past decade at billionaire Ronald Perelman’s holding company. She succeeded Jeffrey Brown, who left Activision in January after serving as its longtime corporate secretary and compliance chief.

Now Hiring

In recent weeks, Activision has recruited several new executives to help the company tackle its mounting legal issues related to employee unrest over workplace conditions in the broader gaming industry.

In mid-September, Activision was hit with a National Labor Relations Board complaint accusing the company of violating federal labor rules, a month after an activist investor sued the company. California’s civil rights enforcement agency also accused Activision in August of destroying documents and retaliating against employees who aided an investigation by the state regulatory body into allegations of sexual harassment and bias.

The company’s online jobs board currently lists four legal job openings, including two Santa Monica-based positions for an in-house employment law counsel.

Activision in July hired Luci Altman, a former deputy general counsel for securities and corporate affairs at Las Vegas Sands Corp., to be a senior vice president for senior securities and corporate governance.

Another recent addition to Activision’s legal team is senior director of securities and corporate governance Mary Herman. She was hired in June after serving as general counsel for Virgin Hyperloop, a transportation technology company, according to her LinkedIn profile and registration with the State Bar of California.

Jeremy Wilson, a former senior director of securities and corporate governance at Activision, left the company in May to become a vice president of legal for the TechStyle Fashion Group, owner of online retailer Fabletics, according to his LinkedIn profile and California Bar in-house registration.

(Updates story throughout with comment from Activision and more information on the company's workplace issues and in-house legal team.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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