Why BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax Stocks Soared This Week

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Motley Fool 23 July, 2021 - 05:02am 42 views

Why is Activision getting sued?

California Sues Gaming Giant Activision Blizzard Over Unequal Pay, Sexual Harassment. A lawsuit filed by the state of California on Wednesday alleges sexual harassment, gender discrimination and violations of the state's equal pay law at the video game giant Activision Blizzard. NPRSuit Claims Sexual Harassment, Discrimination At Game Studio Activision Blizzard

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Shares of BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) soared 21.3% this week as of the market close on Thursday. Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) stocks also both jumped 12.4% this week.

The common denominator driving all three vaccine stocks higher was increased concern about the delta variant of the coronavirus. COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and several other countries across the world are rising due to the highly contagious strain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this week that the delta variant now accounts for 83% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

There was also other news driving a couple of the stocks higher. BioNTech and its partner, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)announced a letter of intent with Biovac to produce COVID-19 vaccines for distribution to 55 member countries of the African Union. Moderna announced new supply deals with Japan and Taiwan. 

Although worries about the delta variant primarily fueled the gains for BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax this week, it remains to be seen what impact the variant will actually have on the companies' fortunes. The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintain that current vaccines on the market offer strong protection against severe cases of COVID-19, even ones caused by the delta variant.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday seemed to back up the CDC-FDA stance for a couple of COVID-19 vaccines. The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and AstraZeneca's vaccine (which hasn't received Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. yet) are almost as effective against the delta variant as they are against the alpha variant first identified in the U.K. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the delta variant, only a little lower than the vaccine's 93.7% efficacy against the alpha variant. 

However, real-world data from Israel announced earlier this month wasn't so encouraging. Israel's Health Ministry stated that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine's efficacy fell to 64% from an earlier efficacy of 95.3% when the delta variant wasn't prevalent.

How the vaccines fare against the delta variant is important in part because of what it could mean for the need for third booster doses. If booster doses are required, sales for authorized vaccines could be even higher than what is currently projected.

Look for BioNTech (along with Pfizer) and Moderna to keep picking up more deals to supply doses of their COVID-19 vaccines in 2022. Both companies also should continue to build their cash stockpiles and could put the money to use through acquisitions and licensing agreements to bolster their pipelines.

For Novavax, the major milestone ahead is the company's anticipated filing for Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for its COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., U.K., and European Union later this quarter. Novavax has already reported positive results from late-stage studies of its vaccine that should bode well for its chances of winning EUA.

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Blizzard president addresses harassment, discrimination lawsuit

GamesIndustry.biz 23 July, 2021 - 02:47pm

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The head of Blizzard Entertainment reacted to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit alleging harassment and discrimination of women in a memo to staff last night, as reported by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier.

"I personally have a lot of emotions coming out of yesterday, and I know you do, too," Brack said. "The allegations and the hurt of current and former employees are extremely troubling."

He added, "While I can't comment on the specifics of the case as it's an open investigation, what I can say is that the behavior detailed in the allegations is completely unacceptable."

Brack went on to say nobody at the company should face discrimination or harassment, and everyone should feel safe working there. He added that it takes courage for people to come forward with their stories, and insisted the company and leadership take such stories seriously and investigate them appropriately.

"People with different backgrounds, views, and experiences are essential for Blizzard, our teams, and our player community," Brack said. "I disdain 'bro culture,' and have spent my career fighting against it."

He added, "A company is more than a legal construct that exists as a piece of paper in a filing cabinet in Delaware. The people that work at the company make it what it is, through their actions and creations. Each of us plays a role in maintaining a place of safety for one other. And it is also up to each of us to continue to craft the Blizzard we want -- and commit to doing our part in keeping Blizzard great but always aspiring for more."

The tone of Brack's internal message was markedly different from Activision Blizzard's external communication regarding the lawsuit.

"The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past," the company said, calling the agency's behavior "disgraceful" and "irresponsible."

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California Sues Activision Blizzard for Being 'Breeding Ground for Harassment'

VICE 22 July, 2021 - 09:03am

The lawsuit is the result of a two-year investigation led by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that found that Activision Blizzard had discriminated against women at the company also in terms of promotions, compensations, assignments, and firings. "Female employees were overwhelmingly assigned into lower grades/levels… and received less stock," the complaint alleges.

In the office, women were subject to so-called "cube crawls" during which men at the company got drunk and "crawl[ed]" through office cubicles and harassed women, the complaint alleges. Men played videos games for extended periods of time during work hours, delegating tasks to women, joked about rape, commented on women's bodies, and groped them, the complaint continues. High-ranking men at the company engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions. 

The agency seeks an injunction that would force compliance with workplace protections, in addition to pay adjustments, unpaid wages, back pay, lost wages and benefits for women at the company, stating that “compliance with California’s broad workplace protections is long overdue.”

In one instance, the lawsuit alleges that a woman at the company killed herself on a business trip with a supervisor she was having a sexual relationship with. The woman had previously faced harassment from men at the company, including a holiday party before her death, when her male colleagues allegedly passed around a photo of her vagina, according to the complaint. 

The company's workforce is about 20 percent women, and its top leadership is exclusively white and male, according to the lawsuit. 

The complaint also highlights examples of women at the company being held back from promotions because of the chance they could become pregnant, receiving negative performance reviews while they were on maternity leave, getting kicked out of lactation rooms by male colleagues for meetings, and receiving criticism for leaving work to pick up their kids. 

Women of color at the company faced discrimination in the form of constant micromanaging, the complaint alleges. One Black woman who worked in the IT department was forced to write up a one-page summary of how she would spend her time off when she asked for vacation, when no one else on her team had to, according to the complaint. Another Black woman at the company said it took two years for her to be offered a full-time position, long after everyone else on her team had been made full employees. Men on her team were allowed to play video games during the workday, but her supervisor would call and check on her if she went outside for a walk, the complaint states. 

Like other video game publishers of its size, Activision Blizzard's operations span multiple offices in different locations. The lawsuit is not always specific about which part of the company the harassment took place in, but it specifies Blizzard Entertainment, the beloved developer behind World of Warcraft and Overwatch which merged with Activision in 2008, multiple times. 

"Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior," the lawsuit claims. "This behavior was was known to supervisors and indeed encouraged by them, including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to 'buy' a prostitute to cure his bad mood"

Activision Blizzard said the Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit "includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past."

"We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived," Activision Blizzard said in a statement to Waypoint.  "They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so."

Activision Blizzard also said it was "sickened" that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing included the suicide of the employee in the complaint. "It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California," the company said.

In 2018, Activision Blizzard was named on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to to Work For" list. "To connect the world through epic entertainment, we recruit and develop the world's best talent," the company's CEO Bobby Kotick said in a press release. "We're proud to be recognized for so many years as one of the best companies to work for. We remain committed to constant improvement so we are always one of the very best places to work."

The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard is just the most recent example of legal action against major video game companies accused of gender discrimination and harassment. Last year, Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft was accused of mishandling widespread sexual misconduct claims at the company; the company now faces a legal complaint in France. In 2018, League of Legends publisher Riot Games was sued after an in-depth and damning investigation into the company’s culture by Kotaku.

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