A three-person special committee tasked with reviewing a third-party investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent announced to the company’s staff today that it found “no evidence” of misconduct and recommended no action be taken against the executive, the Washington Post reports. The news comes the same day that Riot Games filed a request in court to speed up the ongoing litigation against Laurent by a former executive assistant at the company, who accused him earlier this year of firing her for refusing his unwanted sexual advances.
“We concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff,” reads part of a statement by the special committee, which is made up of three members of Riot Games’ board of directors. The statement was first obtained by the Washington Post and is now published online at Riot’s website. “We have therefore reached the conclusion that, at the current time…no action should be taken against Laurent.” The committee, consisting of one woman and two men, says its conclusion and recommendation were based on a third-party investigation by Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a law firm known for representing companies in labour negotiations with their employees.
Back in January, former Riot employee Sharon O’Donnell filed a lawsuit against Laurent alleging a pattern of sexual harassment, including in one instance asking her in a message to “cum” to his house while his wife was away. Laurent denies the allegations. “It’s important you hear this from me directly: The allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true,” Laurent wrote in his email to staff today. “Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened.”
Riot Games and O’Donnell could not immediately be reached for comment.
On its website, the company wrote, “We will use every legal avenue at our disposal to see this case through and ensure that Riot and Nicolo are absolved.”
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The Washington Post reports that Riot’s decision comes as it seeks to push the ongoing litigation with O’Donnell out of the court and into arbitration, and accuses her of witness tampering. Forced arbitration clauses are currently a flashpoint at many companies, including Riot, where a culture of sexism was first reported on at length by Kotaku, because of how they limit current and former employees’ options for seeking justice when mistreated. In 2019, 150 Riot employees held a walkout at the company over these issues, calling on it to drop forced arbitration clauses from its employment agreements.
In February, Wired reported that Laurent continued to employ many of the top executives responsible for creating a sexist “bro” culture at the company. The CEO was not suspended or put on a leave of absence during the recent investigation into his behaviour, the Washington Post reports.
Riot Games is also being sued by former female employees over allegations of gender discrimination and unequal pay. The company managed to force the accusations of discrimination back into arbitration at a hearing earlier this year, while the pay disparity lawsuit continues through the courts. Riot reached a preliminary $US10 ($13) million settlement in the class-action lawsuit back in 2019, but California state regulators have since argued that the settlement should be closer to $US400 ($516) million, and the case remains ongoing.
Riot and Laurent’s latest statements come a day after League of Legends sponsor Alienware reportedly cut ties with the organisation nearly a year before its existing deal was set to expire.