Activision Blizzard is taking streaming giant Netflix to court for allegedly poaching one of its top officers shortly after he separated from the company. The case which was filed a few days ago in a California court claims that Netflix deliberately poached Spencer Neumann, the former CFO of Activision Blizzard, who separated ways with the company under undisclosed circumstances back in December 2018.
Neumann, who was hired as Activision’s CFO last May 2017, was bound via contract to serve in the position for a minimum of three years, and an optional fourth. Neumann allegedly worked with Netflix during the negotiation period between the two companies, in which they expected to attain a commercial partnership.
Netflix has been getting around the idea of moving into streaming and video game development, and getting Neumann was likely a huge step in achieving this goal. However, supposedly a collaboration with Activision wasn’t all that Netflix had in mind: Activision is now accusing that the streaming service compelled Neumann into breaking his contract by actively recruiting him while the negotiation was in process. The CFO took the bribe, and now Activision is worried that other employees might do the same.
The first indication that there was a problem was back in December 2018, when it was announced that Neumann had to leave Activision, a year and a half before the end of his contract. No specific reasons were provided at the time, but a few days later, Netflix revealed that Neumann was their acting CFO.
The timing obviously raised a few eyebrows, but nothing solid about the situation came to light until Activision Blizzard filed a lawsuit in California a few days ago, openly disputing that Neumann was hired by Netflix with a clear violation of his contract.
Netflix offered to pay CFO Spencer Neumann's legal fees as part of its effort to get him to breach his contract with Activision Blizzard, a new poaching lawsuit alleges https://t.co/VqVToCxSMu
— Natalie Jarvey (@natjarv) December 4, 2020
According to reports, the lawsuit indicts Netflix of deliberate interference with the contract of Neumann, unjust competition, as well as abetting and aiding Neumann’s breach of fiduciary duty, and claims that the company has lost a lot of money paying for a replacement. The lawsuit is asking the court for a mandate against Netflix to stop them from further poaching employees, a practice that the streaming service has unfortunate fame for perpetuating.
This is certainly not the first instance Netflix has been alleged of poaching employees from companies – it previously lost a case with Fox and is currently facing charges from Viacom for the exact same reason.
Netflix also has a history of firing employees it considers “average” while actively coercing staff from competitive companies, which does not lend much generosity to their reputation either. While no one will ever prosecute Activision for being totally lacking in controversy, Netflix’s quite very honest and blatant negligence for common courtesy does raise a few red flags.