Economics/Class Relations

The Lawyers Who Ate California: Part I

By Matt Taibbi

Part One: The Feds. A small group of regulators out West tests out a new theory of corporate enforcement, with disastrous consequences.

A while ago I got a tip, suggesting a look into a high-profile lawsuit. You likely know the case: video game titan Activision, makers of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, sued by the state of California for discrimination and harassment. The firm was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year for a staggering $68 billion, and with regulators in countries around the world awaiting resolution of California’s action before approving or denying that mega-deal, Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) vs. Activision Blizzard Inc. now becomes perhaps the most financially fraught lawsuit in the world.

The company filed a lengthy motion in its defense last Friday, detailing its side of a sordid-sounding case it believes should be wrapped up in its favor. However, the self-defense pleas of a leading current corporate Nosferatu received little bounce in popular press, which in the moral mania era isn’t much for “maybe they didn’t” stories.

At first, this sounded like a straightforward story in which the only question was whether Activision is run by misogynist dinosaurs who deserve their brutal public fragging, or whether they’re merely rich gamers blindsided by unproven allegations in the latest example of social justice politics run amok. Not the kind of dispute where a disinterested party would have an obvious rooting interest. Someone would find the storyline fascinating, but that person, I guessed, was unlikely to be me.

Sometimes in journalism, however, a story you think is about one thing, turns out to be about something very different. The tale is barely about Activision. The real protagonists seem to be the regulators.


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