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As gamemaker Activision Blizzard is embroiled in controversy and legal backlash, the situation surrounding one of the industry’s biggest companies continues to unfold.

The company is currently in the middle of a discrimination lawsuit filed by the state of California, and that case has now taken an unexpected turn. A lawyer for the state of California has announced that she is resigning from her position, citing interference from governor Gavin Newsom as the reason.

The story in the Wall Street Journal claims Newsom’s office fired a lawyer involved in the workplace-misconduct lawsuit against videogame company Activision Blizzard Inc., prompting a second attorney to quit in protest, according to a lawyer representing both attorneys.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Chief Counsel Janette Wipper was told by Mr. Newsom’s office on March 29 that she was being fired, according to a statement from Alexis Ronickher, Ms. Wipper’s attorney. Ms. Wipper’s last day at the department was Wednesday and she is evaluating her legal avenues, including a claim under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, the statement said.

Bloomberg reported Melanie Proctor, assistant chief counsel with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, told staff in a Tuesday email she was resigning in protest over the firing of Janette Wipper, the department’s chief counsel who worked on the Activision lawsuit. Proctor also said Newsom’s office asked for “advance notice” on elements of the litigation.

“As we continued to win in state court, this interference increased, mimicking the interests of Activision’s counsel,” the email said, according to Bloomberg.

Newsom’s spokeswoman Erin Mellon said claims of interference by the governor’s office “are categorically false.”  No other details about Newsom’s alleged interference have been made public. Activision spokesman Rich George did not immediately respond to an email Thursday.

However in a related story, Politico reports that a board member for Activision donated $100,000 to a campaign to stop the 2021 recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to state records

Casey Wasserman, CEO of the Wasserman Media Group, is a director at Activision Blizzard, according to the company’s website, and sits on the board of directors and the board’s nominating and corporate governance committee. Just weeks after the California DFEH filed the July suit against the company, alleging rampant sexual harassment and discrimination against women, Wasserman donated $100,000 to the Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom campaign, according to campaign finance records.

The Activision suit – filed in July 2021 in Los Angeles – comes after two years of investigation conducted by the DFEH. It accuses the “Call of Duty” maker of fostering a “pervasive frat boy” culture where women are paid less for the same jobs that men perform, regularly face sexual harassment, and are targeted for reporting issues. In particular, the suit claims that female employees face “constant sexual harassment,” from “having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments” to “being groped.” When employees report issues to human resources and management, the suit says, no action is taken.

Activision has refuted many of the suit’s claims and said it has cooperated with the DFEH’s investigation.

Within a couple months of the California agency filing its original suit, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its own lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, and agreed to settle it the same day. In March, the company agreed to an $18 million settlement with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over similar harassment and discrimination allegations.

The DFEH objected to the settlement and its small $18 million fund set up for “eligible claimants.” Among the reasons for the objection were that the settlement involved anyone receiving a portion of that $18 million to sign a waiver giving up their right to collect any other restitution over wrongdoings by Activision.

The DFEH also objected to the settlement arguing that it essentially ordered tampering of evidence relevant to its own case. The original proposed settlement required Activision Blizzard to “remove from the personnel files of each Eligible Claimant any references to the allegations related to sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and/or related retaliation” and reclassify the terminations of anyone fired in retaliation as voluntary resignations.

In return, the federal EEOC accused the state agency of ethics violations because two of the DFEH attorneys looking to give Activision Blizzard more than a slap on the wrist previously had senior roles in the EEOC and led the investigation that resulted in its own lawsuit.

In January 2022, Microsoft announced intentions to buy Activision for an estimated $68.7 billion in an all-cash deal. The Seattle computing giant is expected to inherit the DFEH lawsuit should the deal pass regulation and close later this year.