The Questions Raised by California's Dismissed Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Activision

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On Friday, the California state agency that accused video game maker Activision Blizzard of Promote a culture of sexual harassment against women. withdrew those accusations in a agreement with the company.

The California Department of Civil Rights said “no court or independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” of “systemic or pervasive sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.” As part of the settlement, Activision Blizzard agreed to pay around $54 million, a sum that would include up to $47 million to address allegations of pay disparity and discrimination. All employees who worked at the company between 2015 and 2020 will be paid according to a formula. The company, however, maintains that it has offered equitable pay.

It is a surprising change. It's unclear how the state agency went from accusing Activision of fostering a culture in which female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment” to withdrawing those accusations a couple of years later.

Was it zeal to enforce the law? This all started with a Anonymous complaint in 2018. That letter was followed by a lawsuit from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 and shortly after by another from the California Department of Civil Rights, which was then called the Department of Fair Employment Housing. the state agency objected to the settlement reached in the EEOC case. And finally came a Scathing Wall Street Journal story.

Journalist Matt Taibbi. wrote about this series of events: “Corporate regulation often begins with an investigation and ends with a devastating headline, but California changed the script.”

Will the agreement cool down the area's heated police officers? In a press release, the California Department of Civil Rights declared victory, announcing the payment of $54 million and stating that “California remains deeply committed to promoting and fulfilling the civil rights of women in the workplace.” job”. Just because the agency found no legal irregularities does not mean it found no irregularities at all.

But the case used enormous resources. The agency's chief lawyer. He was fired last year. And all of this comes about a year after Microsoft, which presumably conducted its own due diligence, paid $69 billion to acquire the gaming company, whose shares were falling due to the allegations.

Shipping companies suspend trips through the Red Sea after missile attacks. Maersk said it would halt its container ships after an increase in attacks since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Danish company said that one of its The ships were attacked by a missile. for which the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility.

The Federal Reserve signals that it will pivot on rates and markets soar to near records. The central bank said it would cut rates three times next year, suggesting a step back in efforts to tackle inflation. But critics They say the Federal Reserve is sending mixed messages, and John Williams, president of the New York Federal ReserveHe stated yesterday that rate cuts were not yet being discussed.

COP28 ends with an agreement to reduce fossil fuels. The United Nations climate summit in Dubai ended with an agreement to abandon fossil fuels for the first time. The agreement came after weeks of rancorous debates, including over the event being hosted by a petrostate.

epic games judicial victory over Google This week was a major antitrust blow for the search giant. The maker of Fortnite accused Google of illegally limiting competition using its Google Play store, and a San Francisco jury agreed. Google plans to appeal, but the legal fight is just one of several cases in which faces next year.

Nico Grant, a technology reporter at The Times, covers Google. He spoke with DealBook about how the cases could reshape Google's business.

Apple mostly won A case similar to the one Google just lost, which was also presented by Epic. What explains the different results?

Apple must be very happy to not have to face a San Francisco jury! And that was the significant difference between the cases. A judge ruled in the Apple case.

It's also notable that Apple has a closed system, where it makes its own phones and software, so it doesn't have the complicated relationships with other phone makers that Google has, partnerships that the jury found coercive and anti-competitive.

A judge will decide remedies in the Google Play case early next year. What potential changes could Google be ordered to make?

Google could be ordered to open payment options in the Play Store, so that users can subscribe to apps directly with the developer who created them. The company could also be forced to open up the Android mobile operating system to a wider range of app stores. For example, Epic would love to offer an app store to Android users.

In these scenarios, the company's Play Store business could be much less profitable, because Google would charge fewer fees.

Would Apple have to adopt similar changes?

In Apple's Epic case, a judge ruled that the company must allow users to pay app makers directly, rather than Apple processing payments and taking a cut. But that has not gone into effect as we are waiting to see if the Supreme Court takes up the case next year. Both companies (Apple and Google) may have to offer customers more options for how to pay for apps, even if they have taken different paths to get there so far.

Google faces two other major antitrust cases in the United States – one related to its search business and the other to its dominance in digital advertising. Which of the three cases has the potential to most significantly impact Google's business?

The search case. It is Google's largest business, responsible for more than half of its revenue last year. Closing arguments won't take place until May and the judge has said he has no idea how he will rule yet. But if Google is found to have violated antitrust laws in search, there could be very serious consequences. The Department of Justice could request that one of the platforms where it distributes its search engine, such as its Chrome web browser or its Android operating system, be spun off from the company.

Is the outcome of the Google Play case likely to affect rulings in other antitrust cases Google faces in the United States or the European Union?

One legal expert I spoke to said the cases are so different from each other that this result is not necessarily representative. But he shows that Google is not invincible. And it will no doubt motivate anti-Google lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic to work harder to replicate the result.

Netflix this week took a look at its black box, publish display data for more than 18,000 titles during the first half of the year. The streaming giant described it as a “big step” towards transparency and, despite their omissions – even if viewers watched five minutes or an hour of an hour-long show – the release reveals more than rivals such as Disney have released.

Here are some of the more interesting statistics to come out of the report, which covers 93.5 billion hours (or 10.7 million years) viewed:

  • Overall, Netflix originals accounted for 55 percent of hours watched. The most watched series: “The Night Agent”, with 812 million hours watched, followed by season 2 of “Ginny & Georgia” and the Korean series “The Glory”.

  • “Suits,” the USA Networks drama that became a global binge-watching phenomenon this year, accounted for 599 million hours across its nine seasons. (The show began streaming on Netflix in the summer, so most of its views occurred after the measured reporting period.)

  • The most watched productions did not have big stars, which can significantly increase costs. The highest-ranked star vehicle was “FUBAR,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, which came in tenth place. “The Mother” by Jennifer Lopez was next at number 14.

  • That said, Netflix's expensive partnerships with mega-producers are paying off. Shonda Rimes' “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” came in fourth place with 503 million hours watched.

Thank you for reading! See you on Monday.

We would like to receive your comments. Email your ideas and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.



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