Ex-Blizzard legal chief lands at digital avatar company Genies

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(Reuters) – The former chief lawyer for Blizzard Entertainment Inc has joined a Los Angeles-based avatar technology company that is on the verge of a launching an online marketplace for digital goods known as non-fungible tokens.

Genies Inc announced Monday that Claire Hart has joined the company as its first general counsel. Genies is in the midst of partnering with Dapper Labs Inc, which helped launch the U.S. National Basketball Association’s NFT marketplace, Top Shot, to launch its own marketplace where users can buy digital items for their avatars.

Genies represents « thousands of different celebrities as their avatars, » said CEO and founder Akash Nigam, including musicians Cardi B, Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes.

« We think avatars are a new tool to showcase new sides of your personality that photos, videos and text aren’t able to justify, » Nigam said.

Nigam touted Hart’s strengths as a dealmaker, saying « she’s going to be a good strong arm in a lot of those negotiations. » He added that Hart will have the discretion to either hire more lawyers to work in-house or continue to use outside counsel.

« She’ll have the budget, » he said.

Hart left Blizzard in mid-September as the video game maker and its parent company, Activision Blizzard Inc, faced growing scrutiny over its workplace practices, including allegations of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

She announced she was leaving the same day Activision Blizzard said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating its disclosures regarding employment matters and related issues. Hart has not been publicly connected to the harassment and bias allegations that have roiled Blizzard since July, when California’s anti-discrimination agency first filed suit. Since then, the video game maker has seen a stream of high-profile departures.

A Blizzard spokesperson previously told Reuters that Hart did not leave due to the SEC investigation.

Last week, Activision Blizzard and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced they had reached an agreement to settle claims over sexual harassment and discrimination in the company’s workplace.

The ongoing controversy at Blizzard did not affect Genies’ consideration to hire Hart, Nigam said.

« We went through a fully vetted process and we feel very confident in our decision, » Nigam said.