TSM finds ‘no illegal conduct’ in CEO Andy Dinh investigation

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An independent investigation into the workplace behavior of Andy Dinh, CEO of esports organization TSM, found “no unlawful conduct” by the executive, according to public statements released today by Dinh. and the law firm retained by Swift Media, TSM’s parent company.

“None of the witnesses interviewed had witnessed or were aware of derogatory behavior or comments directed at and/or based on a protected characteristic, namely gender, race, religion, sexual orientation” , reads the public summary of the investigation prepared by the law firm. Gutierrez Marca. “There was also no observed conduct in the workplace that was sexual in nature or harassing. In short, there was no sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex.

Swift’s retained investigator, labor attorney Lynne Davis, interviewed 31 current and former employees of TSM, Blitz and ICON, according to the Gutierrez Marca statement. In the same statement, the law firm acknowledged that Dinh used an “aggressive and harsh tone” when providing his comments, and recommended that Dinh undergo executive coaching. Still, he estimated that 25 of 31 employees surveyed did not believe they were working in a toxic environment.

At TSM and Blitz, staff describe a toxic workplace and an unstable CEO

At a general staff meeting this morning, the results announcement was not well received by all TSM employees, according to two people who were on the Zoom call. During a town hall Q&A, a longtime employee raised questions about the likelihood of TSM’s workplace culture changing, given Dinh’s description of the allegations against him as “very exaggerated”. The employee also questioned why TSM alerted sponsors to the results of the investigation long before Friday’s town hall with employees.

The employee also accused Dinh of ignoring them for a promotion and said Dinh explained the decision by saying the employee would not be able to handle his bullying, according to people on the call. Dinh responded by saying he didn’t remember saying that.

Investigations into Dinh’s conduct in the workplace began in late 2021, after Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, a former star player on TSM’s “League of Legends” roster, accused the organization’s founder of verbal abuse and bullying on a live stream. Shortly after the remarks, Swift Media, which is also the parent company of software development company Blitz and talent agency ICON, launched an independent investigation, according to TSM. Dinh recused himself from “any oversight of the scope, nature and findings of the investigation,” according to a statement from TSM shared with The Washington Post in early May.

More than a dozen current and former employees of TSM and Blitz, both of which are led by Dinh, described a “culture of fear” at the company and told the Post that they had seen or seen Dinh to publicly shame his employees. Some have attributed a dramatic turnover rate and the departures of several senior executives from both companies to Dinh’s abrasive management style.

One of Dinh’s current employees who was interviewed in early 2022 as part of Swift’s investigation said Davis asked questions focused on allegations of bullying and verbal abuse raised in a January report in Wired. The employee told the Post that they impressed Davis that their history with Dinh caused them to avoid him in the workplace.

“Andy is not someone I want to interact with, and he’s definitely someone I actively try to avoid, which seems a bit odd considering he’s at the top of the food chain. in my own business,” the current employee said, describing the message they conveyed to Swift’s investigator. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation with the press. “I tried to build layers of leadership or layers of bureaucracy to keep me from interacting with him as much as possible. I think that’s been very helpful for my mental health.

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In her interviews, Davis also asked about a wide range of behaviors that would be inappropriate in the workplace, according to the current employee and Anthony Barnes, a former senior program manager at Blitz who was interviewed by Davis. Barnes and the current employee both understood that these were hypothetical questions asked for thoroughness, and neither had anything to share with Davis on these points.

“Honestly, those were pretty generic questions,” Barnes said. “It kind of surprised me how general they were. She covered it all. Barnes, like the current employee, informed the investigator of several negative interactions he had experienced while working with Dinh.

When the findings of the investigation were released, this current employee found that he aligned himself, roughly, with what he had told Davis. Yet they were caught off guard by the framing of the results.

“In general, the investigation really seems to focus on the legal definition of harassment and protected classes,” the current employee said. “[That] isn’t really what Doublelift or anyone was insinuating to begin with, so that’s a bit odd.

“A lack of skill is not illegal, so I’m not at all surprised by the outcome,” Barnes said.

In a statement posted to Reddit and Twitter, Dinh wrote “it has become increasingly clear that my current communication style is sometimes not effective.” The CEO also promised to work with an executive coach and announced a series of company-wide initiatives to improve the work environment, including the establishment of an anonymous helpline for employees and a three-month audit of corporate cultures.

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Riot Games, TSM’s partner in League of Legends Esports, is still conducting its own investigation. This investigation was launched by the Players Association for the North American League Championship Series, which sought out other professional players in November to corroborate remarks made live by Peng, the former TSM athlete.

“It was really a snowball situation,” LCSPA executive director Phil Aram said of his conversations with players about Dinh’s conduct. “You start having a conversation with one or two players and quickly bond with a dozen or more people going back a decade.”

The Players Association ultimately referred the case to Riot on November 12, 2021.

“All we would like to note is that this is not the investigation that Riot conducted with the AP,” said Aram, when reached for comment on Friday. “This is TSM’s own internal report produced by and for them, and released by the subject of the investigation.”

In a statement to Wired in January, TSM said it plans to share the results of its investigation the same month. Still, Davis, the company-hired investigator, was interviewing subjects in the final days of the investigation, which ended on May 16, according to two former executives of companies run by Dinh who were asked to participate. . Both were contacted by Davis on May 12.

On several occasions, the duration of Riot’s investigation was extended when the Players Association asked the law firm retained by Riot to re-examine certain subjects or to contact other subjects who had not yet been contacted. .

Earlier this year, some former workers claimed that TSM and Blitz incorrectly classified them as contractors rather than employees. The Swift Inquiry did not address these allegations; from the outset, the investigation focused narrowly on allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct by Dinh.

Margie D. Carlisle