Riot Games says its investigation of CEO finds "no evidence" of alleged harassment
Riot Games say that the third-party investigation they initiated into CEO Nicolo Laurent has found "no evidence" of wrongdoing, and their own special committee recommends no action be taken against him. The investigation was prompted by Riot Games after a lawsuit was brought against Laurent and the company in January which alleged that he had harassed an employee and that Riot Games had fired her when she complained. The lawsuit is ongoing.
The investigation into Laurent's conduct was performed by external law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, who presented their findings to a three-person special committee at Riot Games. The special committee, as reported by the Washington Post, consisted of Riot Games board member Youngme Moon and two male C-level executives from Riot Games owner Tencent.
Riot Games today published a statement from the special committee, which claims that they "act independently of management" and review investigation results "with impartiality." These statements would be difficult to believe from any company, and paying a third-party law firm doesn't change that. We also have no way of knowing what the Seyfarth Shaw investigation involved.
The legal complaint against Riot Games and Laurent was brought by former executive assistant Sharon O'Donnell, who was fired from her role at Riot Games in July 2020. As reported by Vice last month, the suit alleges that Laurent asked O'Donnell to "'cum' over to his house while his wife was away", asked her to travel with him outside of work, and told her to be more feminine and to watch her tone.
O'Donnell's suit alleges that she complained about Laurent's behaviour to Riot Games' HR department, and that her termination related to those complaints. Riot Games addressed this in a statement to Vice last month, saying that, "The plaintiff was dismissed from the company over seven months ago based on multiple well-documented complaints from a variety of people. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
Today's statement from Riot's special committee says that after reviewing the results of the third-party investigation, they "concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff" and "No action should be taken against Laurent."
Riot also published a short letter alongside a statement from Laurent himself, both available at the same link. Laurent, who had continued to operate in the role of CEO while under investigation, notes in his statement that the company is "exploring legal options." Riot filed a request in Los Angeles County Superior Court the same day asking to speed up court proceedings and to move the case to arbitration.
Aside from the obvious difficulty of impartially investigating yourself - even if you hire an external company - Riot lack credibility in this subject due to previous allegations of sexism in the workplace which were first detailed in a lengthy 2018 report by Kotaku. They remain embroiled in legal proceedings over the issue even now. In 2019, Riot Games staff walked out from their Los Angeles studio in protest of the company's use of "forced arbitration" in resolving sexual harassment claims. Earlier this week Alienware cancelled a League Of Legends sponsorship deal ten months early, with anonymous sources telling Dot Esports that Alienware had cited concerns with the company's public image.