In an internal e-mail sent out to the employees of Riot Games, CEO Nicolo Laurent has announced that COO Scott Gleb has been punished for his inappropriate workplace behavior. However, several employees have told Kotaku that they feel his punishment – two months of unpaid leave and training – is unsatisfactory.
This suspension represents the latest chapter in the culture wars at Riot Games, which were brought to light in an investigative piece by Kotaku. The article describes a male-dominated environment where qualified women are passed over for promotion, female job candidates are held to a higher standard, and a “bro culture” focused on “core gamers” is perpetuated, which includes bathroom humor and alleged sexual misconduct. Scott Gleb’s name was commonly brought up in these allegations. Current and former employees allege that he participated in behaviors such as “ball-tapping” (flicking or slapping testicles), farting on employees, and dry-humping for comedic effect. Some former employees suggest that the COO’s behavior trickled down to the lower ranks, perpetuating a fraternity mindset.
In response to the allegations, Riot released statements back in August promising to right the company’s reported wrongs. This week, Kotaku learned that Riot has investigated Gleb and sent an e-mail to their employees this Monday. After an investigation led by the law firm Seyfarth Shaw and overseen by a committee from the board of directors, they’ve decided to keep Gleb on board. However, he will face two months of unpaid leave and receive training. The e-mail, written by CEO Nicolo Laurent, said:
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.
The e-mail also mentioned that many of the rumors circulated about Gleb in various channels are not true. Kotaku didn’t receive any corrections from Riot on their reporting.
Several current Riot employees who spoke to Kotaku expressed anger over Riot’s response. One current employee, who believes that Gleb should be “demoted or fired,” said to Kotaku that unpaid leave must be barely a punishment for someone who likely has lots of money already from their early investment in Riot Games. They also added “This person is in charge of a lot of people and it’s clear that he has giant lapses in judgment. . . I would say across the board it’s pretty unsatisfying.” Another anonymous employee said they found it telling that Riot’s commitment to changing their culture goes as far as firing people who aren’t insulated from repercussions. They suggested that Riot leadership is more focused on protecting each other than their employees, and that wouldn’t change unless the workers do something directly.
Given how Riot reacted to two employees who spoke up against customers complaining about a panel Riot held for women and non-binary people, it remains unclear the direction Riot is taking in changing their corporate culture.