Riot Games is closing an investigation into whether CEO Nicolo Laurent harassed or discriminated against former employee Sharon O’Donnell, saying it found “no evidence” of the claim. “After review of the results of the investigation,” Riot said in a statement, “there is no evidence that Nicolo harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against Ms. O’Donnell. The Special Committee has also expressed its full confidence in Nicolo’s leadership, that no action against him is warranted, and that he will continue to operate as CEO.”
The Washington Post reported the news earlier today, and Riot posted an overview of the investigation’s conclusions as well as a letter from Laurent. The Post also reported that Riot asked a court to speed up legal proceedings for a suit filed by O’Donnell earlier this year, attempting to move the case to arbitration. The filings allege that O’Donnell harassed other employees of Laurent, pushing them to make false claims against him, and they ask for a hearing to discuss those allegations.
Riot, the studio behind games like Valorant and League of Legends, opened an investigation into Laurent following O’Donnell’s lawsuit. A former executive assistant, O’Donnell alleged that Laurent made inappropriate sexual remarks and demeaning comments about her gender. She also alleged that she was fired after refusing sexual advances from the CEO.
Now, based on the findings of an outside legal team, a special committee of the board of directors has concluded those claims were meritless. “This is not a recommendation we take lightly,” the committee said in a statement. “Most cases of this nature are not black and white; they fall into the grey. However, this was not one of those cases. In this case, we were simply unable to find any evidence that would justify a sanction of any kind against Laurent.”
The committee members said they would request the case be reopened if new evidence emerged. O’Donnell’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigation results.
These claims against Laurent were part of a much bigger controversy involving Riot’s company culture. Several employees echoed stories about pervasive discrimination and harassment at the studio, leading Riot to apologize and promise changes, including suspending the company’s COO for two months. In addition to the suit from O’Donnell, Riot is currently pushing to settle a class action gender discrimination complaint. A report yesterday suggested that Alienware had ended a partnership with Riot following the allegations; Riot declined to comment on the claim at that time.
In its statement, the board committee attempted to separate Laurent’s investigation from a larger mission to change Riot’s culture. “While our conclusion in this particular case is that no discrimination, harassment, or retaliation occurred, let us be clear that as a committee, we remain fully invested in overseeing the Company’s initiatives to transform Riot’s culture,” it said. “We encourage any employee of Riot who has experienced misconduct to feel safe reporting it.”
Update March 17th, 1:00PM ET: Added additional details from Riot court filings.