The investigator retained by Swift, employment attorney Lynne Davis, interviewed 31 current and former employees of TSM, Blitz and ICON, according to the Gutierrez Marca statement. In that same release, the law firm acknowledged that Dinh used an “aggressive and harsh tone” when delivering feedback, and recommended that Dinh undergo executive coaching. Still, it held that 25 of the 31 employees interviewed did not believe they were working in a toxic environment.
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During an all-hands staff meeting this morning, the announcement of the results did not go over well with all of TSM’s employees, according to two people who were on the Zoom call. During a Q&A portion of the town hall, one long-tenured employee raised questions about the likelihood of TSM’s workplace culture changing given Dinh’s description of the allegations raised against him as “highly exaggerated.” The employee also asked why TSM had alerted sponsors about the investigation results well in advance of Friday’s town hall with employees.
The employee also accused Dinh of passing them over for a promotion, and said Dinh had explained the move by saying the employee wouldn’t be able to handle his bullying, according to those present on the call. Dinh responded by saying he didn’t remember saying that.
The investigations into Dinh’s workplace conduct began in late 2021, after Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, a former star player for TSM’s “League of Legends” roster, accused the org’s founder of verbal abuse and bullying on a live stream. Shortly after those remarks, Swift Media, which is also the parent company of the software development firm Blitz and the talent agency ICON began an independent inquiry, according to TSM. Dinh recused himself from “any oversight of the scope, nature and conclusions of the investigation,” per a TSM statement shared with The Washington Post in early May.
Over a dozen current and former employees at TSM and Blitz, which are both run by Dinh, described a “culture of fear” at the company, and told The Post they had experienced or witnessed Dinh publicly shaming his employees. Some attributed a dramatic turnover rate and the departures of several high-ranking executives at 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 inquiry said Davis asked questions focused on allegations of bullying and verbal abuse raised in a January report in Wired. The employee told The Post they impressed upon Davis that their history with Dinh led them to avoid him in the workplace.
“Andy is not someone who I want to interact with, and he’s definitely someone I’m actively trying to avoid, which feels a bit weird considering he’s at the top of the food chain at my own company,” said the current employee, describing the message they conveyed to Swift’s investigator. The employee spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation with press. “I’ve tried to build layers of leadership or layers of bureaucracy to block me from interacting with him as much as possible. I think that’s been really 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. Both Barnes and the current employee understood these to be searching, hypothetical questions done in the interest of thoroughness, and neither had anything to share with Davis on those points.
“They were pretty generic questions, honestly,” said Barnes. “It kind of surprised me then how general they were. She covered everything.” Barnes, like the current employee, informed the investigator of several negative interactions he had experienced working with Dinh.
When the investigation’s findings were released, that current employee found that they aligned, roughly, with what they had told Davis. Still, 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,” said the current employee. “[That] isn’t really what Doublelift or anyone was insinuating to begin with, so that’s a little odd.”
“A lack of competency is not unlawful, so I’m not surprised by the outcome at all,” Barnes said.
In a statement posted to Reddit and Twitter, Dinh wrote “it has become increasingly clear that my current communication style is not effective at times.” The CEO also promised to work with an executive coach, and announced a slate of companywide initiatives aimed at improving the work environment, including the implementation of an anonymous reporting hotline for employees and a three-month audit of his companies’ cultures.
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Riot Games, which partners with TSM in the context of League of Legends Esports, is still conducting its own investigation. That inquiry was kick-started by the Players’ Association for the North American League Championship Series, which sought out other pro players in November to corroborate remarks made on stream by Peng, the former TSM athlete.
“It was very much a snowball situation,” Phil Aram, executive director of the LCSPA, said of his conversations with players about Dinh’s conduct. “You start having a conversation with one or two players and quickly you’re being linked to a dozen or more people who date back as much as a decade.”
The Players’ Association ultimately referred the matter to Riot on Nov. 12, 2021.
“All we would note is that this is not the investigation Riot conducted with the PA,” said Aram, when reached for comment Friday. “This is TSM’s own internal report produced by and for them, and published by the subject of the investigation.”
In a statement to Wired in January, TSM said it expected to share the results of its investigation that same month. Still, Davis, the investigator retained by the company, was interviewing subjects in the final days of the investigation, which closed on May 16, according to two former executives at companies run by Dinh who were asked to participate. Both were contacted by Davis on May 12.
On several occasions, the length of Riot’s investigation was extended when the Players’ Association requested the law firm retained by Riot re-interview certain subjects or reach out to other subjects who had not yet been contacted.
Earlier this year, some former workers alleged TSM and Blitz had misclassified them as contractors rather than employees. The Swift investigation did not touch on those claims; from the start, the inquiry focused narrowly on allegations of improper workplace conduct by Dinh.