Esports team owner TeamSoloMid (TSM) released the findings of two separate investigations into its leadership today—with one clearing founder and CEO Andy Dinh of allegations of workplace harassment and another confirming that former “League of Legends” coach Peter Zhang had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Founded by Dinh in 2009, TSM is one of the most valuable esports organizations in the world, with estimated annual revenues of $45 million as of 2020. The Los Angeles-based company tapped law firms Gutierrez Marca and Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett to investigate the allegations against Dinh and Zhang, respectively.
Claims that the 30-year-old Dinh, better known by his gaming handle “Reginald,” was an abusive boss who had turned TSM’s workplace into a toxic environment first surfaced in November 2021, when former TSM esports pro Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng called Dinh out on a livestream—describing him as a “bully who gets away with being a bad person because he’s powerful.”
The Gutierrez Marca probe, conducted by investigator Lynne Davis, reached out to 39 witnesses and interviewed 31 current and past employees of TSM parent company Swift Media. According to the law firm, its investigation “revealed that there was no unlawful conduct by Mr. Dinh,” with none of those interviewed having witnessed or been aware of “conduct or derogatory comments” targeting anyone’s gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or other “protected characteristic[s].”
It added that “of particular note given the male dominated esport industry, all females interviewed did not feel that they were marginalized and/or that gender prohibited advancement within Swift.” Additionally, there was “no conduct observed in the workplace that was sexual in nature or harassing. In sum, there was no sexual harassment or gender discrimination.”
The law firm’s report did find, however, that Dinh would “provide feedback to employees, including players, in an aggressive and harsh tone.” Three witnesses said they had seen Dinh call employees names like “stupid,” “trash,” or “worthless,” while six current and former employees described him as a “bully” who had created “a culture of fear.” The remaining 25 people interviewed said they did not feel their workplace at TSM was toxic.
The Gutierrez Marca investigation is separate from another probe into Dinh’s conduct by L.A.-based video game developer Riot Games, which stages a prestigious annual “League of Legends” tournament that TSM competes in.
Dinh commented on the investigation into his conduct in a lengthy Reddit post on Friday. “While going through this process, I realized that I need to improve the way that I communicate with team members,” he wrote.
Dinh said he would begin a “three-month top to bottom, full evaluation of [TSM’s] company culture,” adding that he had agreed to the law firm’s recommendation that he attend executive coaching sessions and create an “anonymous reporting hotline” for employee complaints. incidents.
Simpson Thatcher’s investigation into Zhang, meanwhile, confirmed the allegations that had led TSM to terminate the former “League of Legends” coach in March. Zhang subsequently returned to his native China later that month, meaning that the law firm couldn’t reach him for an interview.
The relationship between Zhang and his TSM esports players was the main focus of the investigation. Simpson Thatcher determined that Zhang had diverted a total of roughly $250,000 in salary payments meant for two TSM esports players to himself and an associate. Zhang also swindled a TSM player, who was leaving the U.S. to return to Asia, out of $45,000 by selling the player’s car on his behalf for $80,000 but only returning less than half of that amount to the player.
Additionally, Zhang repeatedly asked players for “loans” of anywhere from $1,500 and $22,000, under the guise of needing to pay for his grandmother’s medical treatment in China. Zhang ended up borrowing a total of $15,000 from two players, repaying them $10,500 of that amount. But he has yet to give back the remaining $4,500, and TSM said that on March 18, it stepped in to prevent up to $54,000 in additional funds from being wired to Zhang.
“We believe that Mr. Zhang engaged in unethical and potentially illegal conduct and TSM, by immediately terminating Mr. Zhang after learning about his misconduct, acted in a timely fashion to protect the team and its players and staff members,” Simpson Thatcher investigators wrote in their report.
In a statement Friday, TSM said it had referred the details of the Zhang investigation to the FBI and added that it is “working with each player affected to make sure all are made financially whole.”
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