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US politicians condemn plans for possible Bobby Kotick payout

As part of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition.

A group of US senators has expressed concern at the possibility of a windfall payout for controversial Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick, as part of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of his company.

Four politicians, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, signed a letter to the Federal Trade Commission alerting it to the issue, The Wall St Journal has reported.

The FTC is currently examining the details of Microsoft’s proposed $68bn deal to buy Activision Blizzard, which is expected to be finalised next year.

The letter points out that the acquisition process risks dampening down an employee push for accountability, and undermining it by allowing Kotick to remain in place and therefore receive a sizable payout if he leaves on good terms.

“This lack of accountability, despite shareholders, employees, and the public calling for Kotick to be held responsible for the culture he created, would be an unacceptable result of the proposed Microsoft acquisition,” the letter read.

The letter goes on to state that any deal which negatively impacted workers should be opposed by the FTC.

In response, an Activision spokesperson said the deal would not impact any changes put in place in response to last year’s flurry of reports alleging sexual harassment and misconduct, and there were no special terms for Kotick in the deal itself.

Still, Kotick’s existing severance packages are laid out – and vary wildly based on the manner in which he leaves the company. In January, Business Insider estimated Kotick’s payout could be up to $400m when taking into account the millions of company shares he personally owns.

Earlier this week, a US judge indicated they were “prepared to approve” an $18m settlement for the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, despite objections from other parties.

While employee protests have calmed down, Activision Blizzard remains mired in controversy. Two new lawsuit were filed in the past month containing fresh allegations, while shareholders are suing over terms of Microsoft’s deal and both the US Justice Department and SEC are investigating possible insider trading.

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