Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Twitter – Activision Blizzard exec Fran Townsend ‘deletes Twitter profile’ following inflammatory post about whistleblowing

Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend has seemingly quit Twitter in the wake of a heavily criticised post she made about whistleblowing.

The World Warcraft, Call of Duty and Candy Crush publisher is currently facing a lawsuit, filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which accuses the company of failing to properly address reports of harassment and discrimination.

Townsend, who previously served as the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to President George W. Bush, has been executive vice president for corporate affairs and chief compliance officer at Activision Blizzard since March 2021.

Activision Blizzard exec Fran Townsend ‘deletes Twitter profile’ following inflammatory post about whistleblowing
Activision Blizzard’s Fran Townsend

In her current role she oversees Activision Blizzard communications, among other corporate functions, but her messaging has made her a target since the DFEH’s lawsuit was filed.

First, she reportedly sent a company-wide email calling it “a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit” which “presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories”.

Her comments, which formed part of Activision Blizzard’s combative response to the lawsuit, contributed to employees staging a walkout in protest of working conditions at the company and a loss of faith in its leadership.

More recently, Townsend drew significant criticism for using her Twitter account to tweet “the problem with whistleblowing” in a message linking to an Atlantic article on subject.

After being flooded with responses, Townsend reportedly started blocking Activision Blizzard employees on Twitter, and on Wednesday she appeared to have deleted her account.

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On Tuesday, Activision Blizzard held its second quarter earnings call, in which CEO Bobby Kotick used his opening remarks to address the central issues in the lawsuit.

“I want to start by making it clear to everyone that there is no place at our company where discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind will be tolerated,” he claimed.

“We appreciate the current and former employees who have come forward in the past and recent days with courage, and I want to reiterate the commitments we have made to you.

“Our work environment – everywhere we operate – will not permit discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment. We will be the company that sets the example for this in our industry. While we’ve taken many steps towards this objective already, today we are taking even more.”

These include the company’s decision to make Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra the new co-leads of Blizzard following Tuesday’s departure of president J. Allen Brack.

“In addition, we’ll continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive,” Kotick continued. “When we learn of shortcomings we will take decisive action, and to strengthen our capabilities in this area we’ll be adding additional staff and resources. People will be held accountable for their actions.

“That commitment means that we will not just terminate employees where appropriate but will also terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.”

On Tuesday, an Activision Blizzard PR spokesperson told Axios reporter Stephen Totilo that Townsend remained in her position at the company.

A company spokesperson also told the site that Jesse Meschuk, Blizzard’s SVP of global human resources for Activision Blizzard, had left the business.