Controversial CEO Leaves Call Of Duty Publisher

Frances Townsend defends torture on the CBS morning show in 2017.

Screenshot: CBS Viacom/Kotaku

In a past life, Frances Townsend defended the legal basis for a method of torture called water torture during George Bush’s War on Terror. In a later release, she helped lead Activision Blizzard into an initially muted response to major sexual harassment lawsuit by the state of California. Now she’s resigning Call of Duty a publisher’s Compliance Officer after less than two years in that position.

CEO Bobby Kotick announced the move to the state in an email Thursday. Wall Street Magazine reports. Despite leaving this position, Townsend will still remain an official advisor to Kotick and the board of directors of Activision Blizzard, of which Kotick chairs. This shift in the company’s governance structure comes as Microsoft tries to convince regulators to let it buy the publisher. Overwatch 2 as well as Diablo IV by $69 billion by June 2023.

“She has relentlessly and successfully navigated difficult times for the company with leadership, conviction and grace,” Kotick wrote in an email. Wall Street Magazine. (Last November, more than 1,000 employees signed a letter urging him to resign.)

Others may disagree. Brought in to help Activision Blizzard navigate complex global regulations, the former Bush adviser has become one of the people who paid the company with allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment. Townsend became the ambassador for the company’s extremely harsh rebuttal of the California lawsuit, which alleges pay discrimination, “fraternity boys” workplace culture, and other issues.

“A recently filed lawsuit presented a distorted and incorrect picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old and out-of-context stories, some of which were more than ten years old,” read email from his work account, basically defending the company and denying any legitimacy of the claims. This prompted a strike by hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees the following week, and Townsend even started blocking some of them on twitter after they criticized her for posting an article on Twitter against whistleblowers from Atlantic Ocean. In the end, she completely destroyed her Twitter account. However, Wall Street Magazine it was later reported that the original email from Townsend’s account to drop the California lawsuit was actually designed by Kotik.

Activision Blizzard later reversed its stance by announcing a series of new workplace policies and an $18 million agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ABK Worker Alliance, which grew out of the initial allegations, continues to press for more reforms and talk about how policies are designed and implemented.

Townsend could not be contacted, and Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: 09/30/22 10:30 PM ET: This was announced by the representative of Activision Blizzard Rich George. Kotaku With copy of Kotick’s email to staff regarding Townsend’s departure, but declined to comment further:


As we move closer to completing our merger with Microsoft, I want to share some of the important updates we’re making to reinforce our ongoing commitment to workplace excellence, compliance, and governance.

As of October 1st, Fran Townsend will be moving into a new position as Senior Advisor for me and the Board of Directors. In her current role as Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary, Fran has done a truly exceptional job—four positions in fact—with ever-increasing responsibilities and an exemplary work ethic. She has relentlessly and successfully navigated difficult times for the Company with leadership, conviction and grace.

Fran has also done an incredible job of improving effective corporate governance and compliance programs throughout the Company. One of Fran’s most important contributions has been empowerment and talent development, and we are pleased to announce that her deputies Jan Brewer and Lucy Altman will be promoted effective October 1st.

Jen Brewer has just celebrated her tenth year with the company and is currently Senior Vice President of Ethics & Compliance. Jen will be promoted to Director of Ethics and Compliance. Jen has over 20 years of legal and compliance experience. She has long been a key advisor to our senior management team, and this well-deserved promotion is in recognition of her exceptional ability and commitment to making Activision Blizzard the best place to work. Jen will report to COO Brian Bulatao, continuing to work closely with me, Fran, Grant, and directly with the Board’s Audit and Workplace Responsibility committees.

Fran and Jen have been committed to retaining and attracting talent to our world-class compliance team, comprised of a diverse roster of top talent from organizations with leading compliance programs such as Disney, Boeing, KPMG, Walmart, the US Navy and some of the best in the world. law firms.

Jen has been a compliance leader for the company she oversaw for ten years and has built innovative compliance and reporting programs, including our unique Way2Play Heroes program.

Leading our Way2Play team, Jen has worked hard and determined for many years to build our one-of-a-kind Way2Play Heroes initiative, which has grown from 75 heroes to today, with over 140 heroes enforcing best practices across the company.

Jen remains passionate about maintaining the most welcoming, inclusive work environment and ensuring ongoing investment and innovation programs, which is why we remain a role model for others in our industry.

Lucy Altman, currently senior vice president of securities and corporate governance, will be promoted to corporate secretary. Lucy joined us last year after over 30 years of private practice and leading corporate experience and has been instrumental in maintaining our highest standards of corporate governance. Building relationships with teams around the world takes time, and Lucy has built strong relationships of trust within the company during the pandemic, which is no easy task. Lucy continues to play a key role in completing our merger with Microsoft. While most of Lucy’s work goes behind the scenes, we know she has played a major role in ensuring that we have the very best management practices. She contributed to our 2021 ESG Report, which highlights our achievements in our efforts to improve the environment through key initiatives such as reducing the use of plastic packaging, and our social and governance programs, which are considered by independent reviewers to be the best in your class. She will continue to ensure that we maintain our commitment to excellence in all of our ESG initiatives. Lucy will now report to our General Counsel, Grant Dixton.

We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that our governance and compliance programs serve as a model for our industry, and these personnel changes will help us maintain momentum in this regard.

We are lucky to have world class professionals like Fran, Jen and Lucy on our team and I am very grateful to them for their tireless work.

Thank you all for your shared commitment to creating the best possible workplace, your passion and unwavering commitment to excellence that will keep us making the best games in the world.

With gratitude


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