Months after Riot Games began investigating TSM and their CEO Andy "Reginald" Dinh for subjecting employees to a toxic workplace environment rife with bullying, the story sees a new development. In a report published by Washington Post vertical Launcher, several former and current TSM employees, most of whom are quoted anonymously as they feared repercussions, detail Reginald's erratic behavior.
Fired for asking questions
The article outlines how a newly appointed HR executive was laid off after mere weeks. Although the new coworker, whose official title was "Head of People Operations", was welcomed with enthusiasm at the company, his stint with TSM was brief. After a disagreement with Reginald, Launcher writes, the executive was told to pack his bags.
In a company-wide meeting that followed, Reginald attempted to explain his decision to fire the HR worker so shortly after hiring him. “That was when [Reginald] told the whole company that the HR person was let go because he asked a question that Andy didn’t like,” a former TSM employee told Launcher. Reginald apparently noticed how odd that sounded and said, according to the same employee, that it was not one but two questions that rubbed him the wrong way. “No one wants to ask any questions after that,” the report adds.
Further down the report, more executives' departures are mentioned by an anonymous source, "The number of executives that were let go … is massive. If I was a VP, I would not want to be working there.” The high turnover rate of executives at TSM and Blitz was mostly unexplained to employees, the report reads. These sudden departures of executives meant that ongoing projects would often descend into chaos.
In the original reports of Reginald's explosive nature, the onus was on his behavior towards players competing under the TSM banner. Launcher's report adds another instance of a competition-related outburst by Reginald. When, in 2020, his team disappointed in the VALORANT First Strike tournament, he attended multiple meetings. Especially in an assignment-review, Reginald was easily triggered. “[Reginald] has obviously always had a short temper,” a former Blitz employee stated. “But that day you could just tell [something was different] because it was like he was hunting you." Anyone who talked, especially higher-ups, were "reamed and ripped apart" by Reginald.
However, according to the employees, Reginald's fuse didn't just lit when his competitive teams underperformed. His gunpowder was sprinkled throughout the entire company.
Employees at coaching app Blitz, a company also owned by Reginald, were subject to the same erratic behavior. “Nobody wanted to be in a one-on-one meeting with Andy because you had no witnesses,” Anthony Barnes, who used to work as a senior program manager at Blitz, says in the report. “I mean that literally. Who knew if Andy was going to scream or yell at you, degrade you, be friendly, or just be confused or inquisitive? You weren’t sure what Andy you were going to get." If more people were on the call, Barnes notes, it was less likely that Reginald would explode.
Sacking the messengers of bad news
However, being in a call with multiple people was not a guarantee that Reginald would keep himself composed. The report notes that the CEO occasionally berated employees and called them incompetent in front of their colleagues. He would also randomly join meetings and listen in.
On one occasion, when Reginald was supposed to be on a ski trip, he spontaneously decided to join a design call for Blitz. Barnes told Launcher, "He took the call where we’re screen sharing detailed design information and mock-ups on his phone. By that medium, that’s going to be inherently challenging. I wouldn’t make that decision. Or I would be cognizant that that would impair my ability to make decisions and evaluations. Andy didn’t seem to do either or value doing so.” As a result, Reginald grew increasingly frustrated during the call.
Several employees comment in the report saying they were afraid to speak with Reginald, fearing triggering an explosion. Blitz co-founder Adil Virani is also mentioned a few times in the article as someone who should not be contradicted, according to workers. One former employee said they were "a little bit afraid" of being fired over mentioning unwelcome news, as it had allegedly happened beforehand.
Dancing around California's employment laws
Aside from detailing the toxic workplace environment harbored at TSM and Blitz, the Launcher report also taps into TSM and Blitz seemingly being dishonest about employees' contracts in order to get favorable tax treatments. Some people who were consistently working a 40-hour work week with regular payment were classified by TSM and Blitz as "contractors" (e.g. freelance workers). In California though, which has strict laws in place for contract workers, these people would not be considered contractors. According to legal experts Launcher spoke to, these people would be considered "employees," which would subject TSM and Blitz to more stringent taxes.
Misclassifying employees is against Californian law and TSM and Blitz could face more issues if the state decides to push the case forward. It is up to the employer to prove that the workers indeed do count as a contractor under Californian law. Accounts given by former employees, though, do not speak in the favor of TSM and Blitz. “No matter what I was doing, I was on the clock,” one person said. “At first it was exciting, when I was young and I was happy working in esports. The longer it went on, the more, you know, I started to experience some burnout and it felt kind of exhausting.”
The report by Launcher says at several points that the outlet reached out to TSM for comments on the statements made. TSM responded to the allegations against Reginald by re-sharing his statement made to WIRED in January, in which he says, “I know I need to work on my delivery." Regarding the contractual allegations, TSM and Blitz spokesperson Gillian Sheldon told Launcher, "We won’t be commenting on confidential personnel issues, especially complaints made by anonymous individuals who feel they were misclassified in their employment status."
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.