Activision's Compliance Chief Steps Down Ahead of Microsoft Deal

  • In Business
  • 2022-10-01 00:55:23Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Activision Blizzard Inc.'s chief compliance officer, who drew scrutiny over her response to sexual assault allegations last year, is stepping down as the video game publisher seeks to close its sale to Microsoft Corp.

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Frances Townsend, who also serves as executive vice president of corporate affairs, leaves two years after taking her role. After Friday, she will become an adviser to the board and to the chief executive officer, Bobby Kotick.

"Fran did a truly exceptional job-actually four jobs-with continuously increasing responsibilities and the most exemplary work ethic," Kotick wrote in an email shared with Bloomberg News. "Fran also has done an extraordinary job enhancing the strong governance and compliance programs we have throughout the Company."

Jen Brewer, the senior vice president of ethics and compliance, and Luci Altman, the senior vice president of corporate governance, will fill Townsend's role. Brewer has been with the company for over a decade. The Wall Street Journal reported the move earlier Friday.

Townsend previously held positions as a counter-terrorism adviser to President George W. Bush's White House and as a general council for MacAndrews & Forbes. Shortly after taking the job at Activision, Townsend said she would focus on customer safety and the security of their personally identifying information. She also said she would look into loot boxes, a mechanic for obtaining in-game cosmetics that is sometimes likened to gambling.

In July 2021, shortly after a California state agency complaint alleged endemic sexism at Activision Blizzard, Townsend's response to the claims were roundly criticized. She described them in an internal letter as "factually incorrect, old, and out of context." Over 2,000 current and former employees of the company signed a letter calling Activision Blizzard leaders' response to the discrimination suit "abhorrent and insulting."

Kotick ultimately took responsibility for the incident, saying Townsend shouldn't be blamed. The company has since shifted to a more conciliatory tone, but she later stepped down from her role as the women's network sponsor at Activision Blizzard King.

(Updates with more on 2021 incident in final paragraph.)

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