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Riot Games clears CEO of harassment, discrimination allegations

Committee says no evidence ‘that would justify a sanction’ against Nicolo Laurent

The West LA campus of Riot Games
Riot Games’ campus in west Los Angeles.
Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Riot Games’ investigation of chief executive Nicolo Laurent, following a workplace discrimination lawsuit filed against the League of Legends company in January, was “unable to find any evidence that would justify a sanction of any kind,” a committee of the company’s board of directors said on Tuesday.

A special committee of the board said it “concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against” Sharon O’Donnell, a former executive assistant whose civil suit alleges Laurent did do such things. The committee, formed from Riot board members who are not company co-founders, hired an outside law firm to investigate the matter. That firm and the committee reported the results in the statement posted to the company website.

“This is not a recommendation we take lightly,” the board committee said. “In cases involving high-ranking executives, we recognize that power dynamics can often give rise to behaviors and biases that infect the experiences of others within the organization in toxic ways. Moreover, in many such cases, reaching a conclusion about these kinds of allegations can be difficult.”

That was not the case with the allegations against Laurent, according to the firm’s report. In mid-January, O’Donnell filed a lawsuit against Riot and Laurent in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that Laurent had propositioned her, asked her to travel with him and work from his home, then had her fired after she reported the matter to Riot’s human resources department.

O’Donnell’s lawsuit, coming so soon after a highly publicized investigative report into Riot’s workplace culture and treatment of women, and a class-action suit that followed it, prompted the board of directors to both convene a special investigation, and then to publicly discuss its findings, the board committee said.

The committee said that “if any additional material evidence of inappropriate conduct on the part of Laurent were to come to light, we would request that Riot reopen the investigation without hesitation and without prejudice.”

Reached for additional comment, a Riot Games spokesperson referred Polygon readers to the company’s statements on its website. O’Donnell’s attorney declined to comment further on their case.

On Riot’s website, Laurent said O’Donnell’s “allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true. Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened.”

“I can say with certainty that if these allegations were true, the Special Committee would have recommended my termination and the board would have fired me,” Laurent wrote.

For its part, Riot Games called the Laurent investigation “rigorous,” and noted that “we’ve parted ways with senior leaders when we’ve validated inappropriate or discriminatory behavior. […] We were fully prepared to do so again.”

In a somewhat-related additional development, The Esports Observer reported on Monday that Dell’s Alienware subsidiary had terminated a sponsorship agreement with Riot Games one year before the deal was set to expire. The Observer’s report cited an unnamed source, who said Alienware’s departure was because of “concern with the game developer’s public image amid harassment claims and other controversies.”

A Riot Games spokesperson told Polygon that the company would not comment on its deal with Alienware, which began in 2019. But, “as we continue discussions with them, we have removed their branding from our broadcasts,” the spokesperson said.

Polygon has reached out to an Alienware representative for additional comment.

Update (9:41 p.m.): In an emailed statement, an Alienware spokesperson confirmed the brand was no longer a Riot Games sponsor but would not comment further.

“It’s true that Dell is no longer a Riot Games sponsor,” the spokesperson said. “We’re unable to provide additional commentary at this time as Dell does not discuss the details of any partnerships.”

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