Activision Blizzard Says Frances Townsend Will Oversee Compliance -- Update
By Sarah E. Needleman and Stephen Nakrosis
Activision Blizzard Inc. on Tuesday said Frances F. Townsend has
joined the videogame giant to serve as its executive vice president
for corporate affairs, and has been appointed by the board to serve
as corporate secretary and chief compliance officer.
Ms. Townsend, who brings years of federal government experience,
will oversee government affairs, public policy and communications,
among other corporate functions, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based
Activision Blizzard, the largest U.S. game publisher by market
capitalization, has players in nearly 200 countries and is made up
of several units, including "Candy Crush Saga" creator King. In an
interview, Ms. Townsend said she'll be responsible for ensuring the
company is in compliance in each of those markets.
"Oftentimes, these laws and regulations are not in harmony and
so the real challenge is making sure that the folks who work in
each individual area understand what the responsibilities and
obligations are there," she said.
Ms. Townsend is paying close attention to how the U.S. will
handle relations with China, the world's largest videogame market,
under the Biden administration. Late last year, Chinese
conglomerate Tencent Holdings Ltd. published Activision Blizzard's
"Call of Duty: Mobile" game in China.
"The most important thing we care about in terms of compliance
there is the protection of personal identifying information," Ms.
Townsend said. "We take the safety and security of our players
wherever they are very seriously."
Last year the Trump administration pushed to remove Chinese apps
TikTok and WeChat from American devices and expressed interest in
identifying U.S. tech companies that have Chinese investors as a
matter of national security. Tencent holds a small stake in
Activision Blizzard and a large one in "Fortnite" maker Epic Games
Inc. of Cary, N.C. It also fully owns Los Angeles-based Riot Games
Inc., known for its "League of Legends" franchise.
The Biden administration plans to allow a sweeping Trump-era
rule aimed at combating Chinese technology threats to take effect
this month, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. The rule
enables the Commerce Department to ban technology-related business
transactions that it determines pose a national security threat,
part of an effort to secure U.S. supply chains.
Another area of focus for Ms. Townsend will be efforts by
legislators in Europe and the U.S. to ban videogame "loot boxes,"
which are packs of virtual goods whose contents are unknown until
after they have been purchased.
While Activision Blizzard has moved away from them, "it's
important that we are involved in the conversation as regulations
are being considered, " she said. "Often legislators are
legislating on things they're not entirely familiar with, and when
they do that, it can have consequences that they didn't
Ms. Townsend was assistant for homeland security and
counterterrorism under former President George W. Bush and was
deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism from 2003
to 2004, Activision Blizzard said. She also served in the U.S.
Department of Justice during the administrations of former
presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the
Most recently, she was vice chairwoman, general counsel and
chief administrative officer at MacAndrews & Forbes Inc., and
before that she was a corporate partner with Baker Botts LLP,
Activision Blizzard said. Ms. Townsend also serves on several
nonprofit boards, including the Atlantic Council, the Center for
Strategic and International Studies and the Council on Foreign
Relations, according to the company.
Ms. Townsend said she plays "Candy Crush" and other mobile
games, and that thanks to her sons, ages 19 and 25, she's familiar
with "Call of Duty."
"When we're all together for the holidays, this is something we
all do together," she said, adding that she isn't sure which
impresses them more -- her new job at Activision Blizzard or her
past stint at the White House. "I cannot keep up with my sons, but
it's a lot of fun."
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
and Stephen Nakrosis at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 02, 2021 20:05 ET (01:05 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.