One of the lead lawyers previously working on California’s Activision Blizzard lawsuit has resigned to protest alleged interference from the state’s governor.
Bloomberg (opens in new tab) reports that Melanie Proctor, formerly assistant chief counsel for California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), resigned to protest the firing of Janette Wipper, who was Proctor’s boss and chief counsel at the DFEH, which filed the state lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard of a “frat boy” culture permitting sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
According to an email sent to DFEH staff and seen by Bloomberg, Wipper was “abruptly” fired by the governor. Proctor and Wipper had both notably moved away from the lawsuit in recent weeks “without explanation.”
In the same email, Proctor claims that the office overseen by California governor Gavin Newsom “began to interfere” with the Activision Blizzard lawsuit in an escalating manner “mimicking the interest of Activison’s counsel.”
“The Office of the Governor repeatedly demanded advance notice of litigation strategy and of next steps in the litigation,” Proctor wrote, per Bloomberg’s report.
Proctor claims in her email that Wipper was “abruptly terminated” after she “attempted to protect” the DFEH, and affirms that she is resigning directly “in protest of the interference and [Wipper’s] termination.”
“Justice should be administered equally, not favoring those with political influence,” Proctor’s email concludes, per Bloomberg.
In a statement sent to Bloomberg (opens in new tab), a representative for Newsom’s office described Proctor’s accusations of interference as “categorically false.”
While Proctor and Wipper both stepped down from the lawsuit earlier this month, they were instrumental in the litigation’s filing and progress, though Wipper was working with a different assistant chief counsel, Sue Noh, at the time the suit was actually filed. With its previous lead and assistant chief counsel now out of the DFEH, the immediate course of the lawsuit is unclear.
Speaking on Wipper’s behalf, spokeswoman Alexis Ronickher affirmed plans to evaluate “all avenues of legal recourse including a claim under the California Whistleblower Protection Act.”
Late last month, a judge approved Activision’s $18 million settlement to a separate lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – a strikingly small sum for such a large company. The DFEH objected to this settlement, which was first announced in September 2021, but a judge rejected its claims.