Special Committee Completes Review of Allegations Against CEO

Special Committee Completes Review of Allegations Against CEO

On January 8, Riot Games was served with a lawsuit including claims of alleged misconduct by the company and our CEO, Nicolo Laurent. In early February, this case attracted media attention and generated questions among Rioters, players, partners, and other stakeholders. Today (March 16), we are sharing the following:

  • Riot’s statement on the matter 
  • A statement from the Special Committee of the Board of Directors regarding its review of an impartial and comprehensive investigation of the claims
  • A letter Nicolo shared internally with Rioters following the Special Committee’s decision

While we typically refrain from discussing individual cases, we are making an exception given the serious nature of the claims and the public attention they attracted.

Special Committee Letter

The following is a statement from the Special Committee on its decision:

On January 8, Riot Games was served with a lawsuit including claims of alleged misconduct by the company and its Chief Executive Officer, Nicolo Laurent. Shortly thereafter, an outside law firm, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, was retained to thoroughly examine the allegations via an impartial and comprehensive investigation.

As the Special Committee of Riot’s Board of Directors, we committed to Riot that when allegations like these against the company’s senior-most executives arose, we would respond with thoughtfulness and care. Given the gravity of the accusations in this case, responding to this matter has been our highest priority. 

As a reminder, the Special Committee was created in September 2018 with a mandate from the Board to oversee the Company’s progress in diversity and inclusion. For investigations specifically involving the behavior of Riot’s senior executives, the Special Committee’s role mandates that it: 

  1. Act independently of management: The Special Committee is a separate committee of the Board and consists only of the directors who are not Riot co-founders. It decides matters without participation or interference from the company co-founders and executive management, and makes independent recommendations to the Board.

  2. Ensure a comprehensive investigative process: This investigation process does not put any limitations on time and scope, and requires allegations involving Riot’s senior-most executives to be investigated by an outside party and brought to the Special Committee for review.

  3. Review investigation results with impartiality: The Special Committee includes directors with significant experience in corporate governance. The Committee understands that it may sometimes have to make decisions that have negative consequences for senior executives under investigation. The Committee is committed to impartiality in this regard.

In this particular case, the Committee was able to review the results of a comprehensive outside investigation that looked into the underlying allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint. We were aided in this effort by Laurent’s full cooperation with the investigation. 

In making our assessment of the results of the outside investigation, we considered two things. First, we assessed whether there was factual support for any of the misconduct alleged by the plaintiff. Specifically, were there any indications of inappropriate conduct? Second, we looked at whether the pattern of interaction between Laurent and the plaintiff could have been interpreted as harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory. In other words, was there anything in the general communication pattern that would lend credibility to the plaintiff’s claims?

After review of the results of the investigation:

  • We concluded that there was no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against the plaintiff.

We have therefore reached the conclusion that, at the current time:

  • No action should be taken against Laurent.

That is our recommendation to the Board.

This is not a recommendation we take lightly. 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. 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.

We must caveat our conclusion and recommendation to the Board with an important note. Going forward, 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. As it stands, absent any additional, credible evidence of this kind, we consider this investigation closed. 

A final comment:  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. In this regard, we encourage any employee of Riot who has experienced misconduct to feel safe reporting it via the Company’s numerous reporting channels (including its anonymous channels such as Lighthouse). Management has committed itself to responding to these reports seriously and fairly, and we will continue to oversee its work in this regard.

 

Riot’s Statement

Riot issued the following statement regarding the Special Committee’s findings:

Since 2018, when we revamped our internal investigation process, we’ve used a rigorous, outside investigation process to ensure that any allegations against our senior leaders are investigated thoroughly and without bias — and that those investigations involving our senior-most executives are overseen by a Special Committee of Riot’s Board of Directors. In the past, we’ve parted ways with senior leaders when we’ve validated inappropriate or discriminatory behavior. Following the recent allegations of misconduct raised against Riot and our CEO, we were fully prepared to do so again. 

The Special Committee of our Board of Directors has concluded that after review of the results of the investigation, and based on everything they know today, 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. 

We’re grateful to the 3000+ Rioters for their patience and resilience during this time. We know it hasn’t been easy to wait for the results. We will use every legal avenue at our disposal to see this case through and ensure that Riot and Nicolo are absolved.

 

Nicolo Laurent's Letter

CEO Nicolo Laurent shared the following letter with Rioters:

Rioters, 

Just a moment ago, Dan posted a message in #nt-riot sharing that the 3rd party investigation involving me has concluded and the Special Committee has delivered its recommendation. 

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone for your patience during this process. Although I’ve wanted to address your questions directly, it’s really important that any allegations of this nature are thoroughly investigated without bias, and without exception. My words carry weight as CEO, and speaking to the allegations could have unintentionally impacted the investigation before it was done and before the Special Committee made its decision.

I also want to acknowledge that the last few weeks have been difficult. You’ve probably found yourselves in uncomfortable conversations with your family and friends about why you work at Riot, with candidates who wanted to withdraw their applications, and with partners who have questioned their long term commitment with us. So it’s important you hear this from me directly: The allegations of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation involving me are not true. Nothing of that nature, or even remotely close to it, ever happened.

From the very beginning of this process, I’ve pledged my cooperation, total transparency, and provided access to anything requested. 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. The LC1 team would have demanded that as well, because the behaviors described in the complaint have no place at Riot.

Now, I know that some of you don’t know me well and may still have your doubts. I want to assure you that just as Riot is on a journey of learning and growth, so too are all of our leaders, including myself. Many of you have seen me stick my foot in my mouth, like when I made a poor joke during Unplugged about children being a solution for isolation during the pandemic. These are moments I continue to reflect on and learn from. And, I’ve been grateful to the Rioters who have taken the time to share feedback with me and challenge me to broaden my perspective and understanding. They have made me a better leader and ultimately, a better human. 

So much has changed at Riot over the last few years, but one thing that hasn’t is our belief that we all play a part in ensuring Riot’s culture reflects our values. I want you to know that I, along with the entire LC1 team, remain deeply committed to making sure we can all feel proud of the culture we have at Riot — one that’s inclusive, where everyone can thrive and do their best work. This is key to our success as a company, and our commitment is unwavering.

I want to thank you all again for your patience during this whole process. As I'm sure you can imagine, this has been a very difficult experience for me and my family. We are also exploring legal options, given that I believe the lawsuit is based on false information and brought forth for the wrong reasons.

I’m appreciative of everyone’s understanding. As we all move through this moment, I expect you’ll have questions. We’ll host an Unplugged tomorrow at 5pm PT, and I’ll be on the panel alongside Angela, Dylan, Emily, and Dan. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have.