×

Riot Games Exec Suspended After Investigation Into Workplace Misconduct

Updated: Riot Games chief operating officer Scott Gelb is on two-month unpaid leave and will receive training following an investigation into lewd behavior toward employees, according to an email sent out to employees and obtained by Variety.

Riot Games confirmed Gelb’s suspension, which was first reported by Kotaku, to Variety Thursday evening.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to evolving our culture, we are thoroughly investigating all claims through our established process,” the developer said in a statement to Variety via email. “Per this process, outside legal counsel undertook an investigation of allegations about Scott Gelb. After carefully reviewing and considering the findings, the special committee of Riot’s board of directors determined that a two-month, unpaid leave of absence, along with training, was the appropriate action given the allegations that were substantiated. We can also confirm that many of the rumors circulating about Scott within the company, the media, and other channels were actually not true.”

The company did not answer Variety’s questions about whether others are under investigation or why Gelb wasn’t fired.

Popular on Variety

But in the email, CEO Nicolo Laurent wrote that an outside investigation — which was then reviewed by a Riot Special Committee — found that “Many of the rumors circulating about Scott within the company, in the media and other channels, are not true. Also, the claims alleging retaliation and cover up from the lawsuit, were determined to be either unsubstantiated or false.

“Having said that, there were claims made about Scott engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, particularly during the early days of Riot. And some of these claims were, in fact, substantiated. The conduct alleged in these claims is not acceptable.”

Neither the email, nor the response to Variety clarifies which of the allegations were true and which weren’t.

The investigation began after an in-depth Kotaku article detailed Riot Games’ alleged culture of sexism. There were numerous stories of bathroom humor and sexual misconduct, some of them concerning Gelb. Former and current employees said he repeatedly touched subordinates’ crotch or butt and farted in their faces for comedic effect. Riot Games told Variety at the time that it would place Rioters on administrative leave when necessary. It also detailed new diversity and inclusiveness initiatives and hired law firm Seyfarth Shaw to conduct an investigation.

While Riot won’t comment on individual cases, it’s making a rare exception for Gelb, Laurent wrote in the internal email, which can be found in its entirety at the bottom of this story.

“There are factors that collectively drive this exception,” he wrote. “The special committee of the board of directors has specifically requested that one of Scott’s consequences be highly visible. Scott holds one of the most senior roles at Riot and is held to a higher level of accountability and visibility, therefore certain consequences are going to be very visible to Rioters. It’s for these reasons I feel it’s necessary to make an exception.”

“Scott could have avoided owning his past and his consequences,” Laurent wrote in the email. “He could have left Riot. Scott chose ownership and redemption. I will root for him, will support him through this journey, and will leverage him as a great leader when he returns next year. I hope you will join me.”

One current and one former Riot employee are presently suing the developer for discrimination, harassment, and violation of the California Equal Pay Act. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status.

Here is the full email Laurent sent to Riot employees earlier this week:

“Rioters,

“I want to take a moment to thank those of you who were able to join in the Investigations Info Session and Q&A this evening. If you weren’t able to join, there will be some limited viewing sessions in each of the Riot offices in the coming days. As mentioned, it will not be available on VOD due to the highly confidential nature of the content shared. You also can find much of the content regarding the process shared in this Riotnet post.

“I feel it’s important to recap for those who could not attend what was shared about a specific case. As I have mentioned, we are committed to protecting Rioters’ privacy and the integrity of the investigation process. This means that you will not hear me or any other leader discuss individual cases.

“Having said that, we made a very rare exception in the case of our COO, Scott Gelb. There are factors that collectively drive this exception. The Special Committee of the Board of Directors has specifically requested that one of Scott’s consequences be highly visible. Scott holds one of the most senior roles at Riot and is held to a higher level of accountability and visibility, therefore certain consequences are going to be very visible to Rioters. It’s for these reasons I feel it’s necessary to make an exception.

“To uphold the integrity of the investigative process, the Board of Directors created a Special Committee (consisting of our first independent director, Youngme Moon, and two C-level Tencent executives) to oversee all investigations related to our senior executives and Founders, and their performance in improving D&I issues at Riot. An independent director is a Board member who has no material business relationship with the company or its parent company (for example, a business relationship could include an employment relationship or equity ownership).

“Scott’s investigation was handled in the same manner as all other investigations conducted by Seyfarth. Additionally, the Special Committee reviewed the investigation findings and determined the consequences. I won’t share the details of the investigation, or try to be comprehensive. Here’s what I can tell you though, based on the information collected through the investigative process and the Special Committee review. Many of the rumors circulating about Scott within the company, in the media and other channels, are not true. Also, the claims alleging retaliation and cover up from the lawsuit, were determined to be either unsubstantiated or false.

“Having said that, there were claims made about Scott engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, particularly during the early days of Riot. And some of these claims were, in fact, substantiated. The conduct alleged in these claims is not acceptable.

“In light of these substantiated claims, the Special Committee wanted to take firm disciplinary action that would be visible to the company. As such, Scott will be going on an unpaid leave of absence for two months, starting at the end of this week. During this time, Scott will undergo training with required check-ins to me by the coach and by Scott. In his absence, Scott’s direct reports will continue to run their organizations and will work with me directly.

“As many of you heard directly from Scott today, he believes strongly in leadership accountability, is taking these consequences very seriously, and is committed to returning from his leave with a resolve to be a better leader, a better colleague, and a better Rioter. He is also committed to personally help make Riot a more diverse and inclusive organization.

“To be clear, Scott could have avoided owning his past and his consequences. He could have left Riot. Scott chose ownership and redemption. I will root for him, will support him through this journey, and will leverage him as a great leader when he returns next year. I hope you will join me.”

More Gaming

  • Activision-Blizzard-Overwatch-League-Grand-Finals-2018

    YouTube Scores Exclusive Streaming for Activision Blizzard's E-Sports, Including Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues

    YouTube landed a multiyear deal as the exclusive live-streaming partner for Activision Blizzard’s e-sports events worldwide, including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports. The agreement (which excludes China) promises to give a big boost to YouTube Gaming, the video giant’s dedicated home for all things related to games. It’s also a loss for [...]

  • Conan Unconquered

    Tencent Bids for Control of Funcom 'Conan' Games Developer

    China’s social media and gaming giant Tencent is bidding to buy control of Funcom, developer of the “Conan” and “Dune” games. The bid values the Norwegian company at $148 million. Tencent already owns 29% of Funcom, and its bid has been unanimously approved by Funcom’s board of directors. No management changes are planned. The shares [...]

  • 100 Thieves

    Esports Organization 100 Thieves Unveils New Facility in Los Angeles

    As of Wednesday, popular esports organization 100 Thieves has an official home in Los Angeles. The group unveiled its new 15,000 square-foot facility, officially named the 100 Thieves Cash App Compound, in a media preview with some of its biggest personalities and owner Scooter Braun on hand. Also in attendance was Jack Dorsey, the CEO [...]

  • Marvel-Strike-Force-FoxNext

    Disney Sells FoxNext Games Unit to Scopely

    Disney has sold off FoxNext Games, the studio it obtained through the purchase of 20th Century Fox, to mobile-games developer Scopely. Terms of the pact were not disclosed. Under the terms of the pact, Scopely is acquiring FoxNext Games Los Angeles, the game studio behind hit game “Marvel Strike Force,” and San Jose-based Cold Iron [...]

  • Call of Duty The Campaign

    Watch the First Episode of New Call of Duty League Docuseries 'The Campaign' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even a new league comes with history. That’s one of the takeaways from the first episode of “The Campaign,” which follows the Chicago Huntsmen in the lead-up to Activision Blizzard’s new franchised Call of Duty League. Variety is debuting the first episode exclusively, which details some of the narrative that follows the Huntsmen (based in [...]

  • Vindex - Imax

    Imax Jumps Into Esports in Exclusive Pact With Startup Vindex

    Hold on to your popcorn: An Imax location near you could soon be beaming live competitive video-game action onto its big screens. Imax has inked a partnership with Vindex (vindex.gg), an esports infrastructure startup formed by Major League Gaming co-founders Mike Sepso and Sundance DiGiovanni, under which Vindex will create esports events and experiences exclusively [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content