Riot Games CEO sued for alleged sexual harassment cleared of any wrongdoing by own board

Ed Nightingale
·3-min read

A third-party investigation into allegations of misconduct by Riot Games CEO Nicolas Laurent has found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The allegations were put forward in a lawsuit filed on 7 January 2021 by Sharon O’Donnell, former executive assistant at the publisher known for the popular League of Legends and Valorant games.

O’Donnell alleged Laurent created a hostile work environment when she refused his sexual advances, including comments about the “tight fit” of his underwear and asking her whether she “could handle him when they were alone at his house”.

Following the investigation, the allegations have been dismissed by a special committee of Riot board members on account of a lack of evidence.

The news was shared to Riot Games employees by the committee, with an additional statement from Laurent circulated internally, both of which were acquired by The Washington Post.

“We concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff,” reads the committee statement. “We have therefore reached the conclusion that, at the current time…no action should be taken against Laurent.”

It continues: “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.”

“It’s important you hear this from me directly: The allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true,”” wrote Laurent. “Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened.”

A part of Riot’s board of directors, the special committee consists of three members, including Youngme Moon, professor at Harvard Business School, as the only publicly named member. She is joined by two male executives from Chinese firm Tencent who own Riot Games.

The decision and statements came the same day as a request to speed up proceedings from Riot to push the case to arbitration, prompted by alleged witness tampering by O’Donnell and others on her behalf.

O’Donnell was previously fired from her position “following more than a dozen complaints from both employees and external partners and after multiple coaching discussions to try and address these concerns”, according to a statement from Riot in February.

O’Donnell’s lawyers responded at the time: “She alleges that she was never made aware of any such complaints. Nor was there any ‘coaching.’ Instead, there were sexist comments made about her ‘tone’.

“She alleges that she was wrongfully terminated because she refused to give in to Nicholas Laurent’s sexual overtures. She also alleges that she was also wrongfully terminated because she was a strong woman in a male dominated sexist company where women are devalued.”

This case is the latest controversy at Riot Games, which was the subject of a high profile exposé in Kotaku in 2018 and led to a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit.

The committee statement also notes the case can be reopened should “additional material evidence” come to light.