Riot Fines TSM $75,000, Places TSM CEO Andy Dinh On Probation For Bullying

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Andy Dinh, CEO and co-founder of esports organization TSM, was fined $75,000 and given two years probation following an investigation by the North America League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), Riot Games announced on Wednesday.

The results of this investigation opened with the statement that “the League believes that Andy Dinh has exhibited disparaging and intimidating behavior and practice towards TSM players and staff”. The ruling finds that Dinh violated two LCS rules regarding profanity, hate speech and harassment.

TSM spokeswoman Gillian Sheldon said the organization would not comment on Riot’s announcement.

Riot Games produces and publishes games such as “League of Legends” and “Valorant”, in which TSM features rosters; the developer also runs several esports leagues, including the LCS. In Wednesday’s competitive ruling, Riot’s head of North American esports Chris Greeley wrote that the $75,000 fine is three times the maximum fine for misconduct by an LCS team member. , reflecting the league’s belief that the pattern of “abusive and harassing conduct” spanned the course of several years. The money will be donated to a bullying or mental health charity.

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

During the two-year trial period, an independent monitor will operate a whistleblower hotline, allowing all TSM employees – not just esports athletes or adjacent personnel – to report potential misconduct and violation of the rules by Dinh. During this same period, TSM will also have to issue a notice – approved by the league – to all current employees and new recruits, offering access to the whistleblower line and explaining why it was instituted.

“TSM and Dinh are committed to a culture change within their organization and we want to provide space for this positive change to occur,” the decision reads. “However, we also want to ensure that if this change does not occur, the consequences within the Riot ecosystem are clear. Any finding by the LCS, or any other governing body of Riot, that Dinh has violated our rules during this probationary period will result in severely increased penalties.

Additionally, Riot demanded that within 60 days, TSM provide proof that Dinh had undergone sensitivity training and executive coaching from an LCS-approved provider.

Riot’s investigation was launched in late 2021 when Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, a former star player on TSM’s “League of Legends” roster, accused Dinh of verbally abusing other players during an online broadcast. direct. Soon after, the Players Association for the North American League Championship Series (LCSPA) began contacting other players and TSM employees to corroborate Peng’s account.

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

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

As part of his investigation, investigators retained by the league interviewed 14 subjects, including Dinh, and reviewed documents – emails, public statements and videos – related to the case. In widely circulated videos dating back almost a decade, for example, Dinh can be seen yelling at other TSM esports athletes.

Greeley’s competitive ruling strives to distinguish the league’s investigation from a separate investigation commissioned by TSM’s parent company, Swift. In May, Swift’s investigation, which the company says was conducted without Dinh’s input or involvement, found “no unlawful conduct” by the CEO. In a conciliation note published alongside the findings of this investigation, Dinh admitted that in the past he had adopted an “aggressive and tough tone” and promised to undergo training.

“We did not provide TSM with visibility into our investigation, provide a list of people we spoke to (apart from current TSM employees), share our notes or final findings with TSM and have not cooperated with TSM on their investigative report or announcement, or on this competitive decision,” Greeley wrote. “The existence and report of the TSM investigation did not influence the conclusions of our investigation.”

Still, writes Greeley, “for reasons of efficiency,” a few interviews with current TSM employees were conducted jointly, with investigators representing both the league and Swift present in the room. The league’s competitive decision was delayed for several weeks after Riot opted to grant those employees the chance to speak again without Swift’s investigator present, according to a person familiar with the investigation who doesn’t know. was not authorized to comment publicly.

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

The May results of TSM’s internal survey faced some pushback from the organization’s employees. At a TSM town hall where the results were first shared, an employee raised questions about the organization’s commitment to changing its work culture given Dinh’s description of the allegations. brought against him as “very exaggerated”.

Some participants in the company’s investigation told The Post they found the investigation’s narrow focus on illegal behavior and the legal definition of harassment and protected classes “strange”.

More than a dozen current and former employees of TSM and software development company Blitz, both of which are run by Dinh, told the Post that the young founder fostered a “culture of fear” in companies. two companies, and said to have lived or witnessed Dinh. publicly shamed its employees. Some have attributed a dramatic turnover rate and the departures of several high-ranking executives to Dinh’s abrasive management style.

Former workers have also alleged that TSM and Blitz incorrectly classified them as contractors rather than employees. Misclassifying employees as contractors is illegal in California, which has some of the strictest employment laws in the United States, legal experts say.

“While we have seen other allegations raised publicly during the investigation, including the characterization of contractors and employees under relevant state or federal law, these matters are ultimately outside the scope of our investigation” , reads the competition decision in reference to The Post. reports of alleged misclassification of workers at TSM and Blitz. “Ultimately, we strive to distinguish between protecting our sport and enforcing our rules on the one hand, and resolving disputes or replacing courts, arbitrators or, in some cases, the police on the other hand.”

There is little precedent for punishing team owners for alleged workplace misconduct. The most high-profile case, that of the now disbanded esports organization Echo Fox, is instructive but not quite comparable. In 2019, the LCS asked the organization to remove an Echo Fox owner who used a racial epithet in a conversation with an African-American esports executive. Eventually, the league forced the sale of Echo Fox’s franchise slot to another organization.

Riot Wednesday’s findings, on the other hand, state that “none of the witnesses recalled a situation in which Dinh’s abusive behavior focused on a protected class (race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity , etc.)”.

“I think the nuance on the Echo Fox case is probably what a lot of people are missing, not really understanding the difference between criminal workplace discrimination and misconduct and, you know, saying things that are derogatory,” Aram said. “We feel like with the evidence we got, Riot did everything they could to give us the best possible penalty.”

The Players Association announced Wednesday’s decision as a historic step forward for esports.

“Never before has an esports players’ association called for an independent investigation into misconduct, never before has a developer conducted such an investigation with the collaboration of an AP, and never before have results shown. imposed on a partner team that indicated an actual change to a toxic workplace,” Aram wrote in a statement to the Post. “The findings and associated implications announced today have the potential to ensure lasting impact in the workplace at TSM that will benefit all of their players and staff. We’re excited to see strong action from Riot and the LCS team on this.

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