Coinbase is offering “generous separation packages” to employees angry about CEO Brian Armstrong’s public declaration that the cryptocurrency giant will keep out of political and societal issues such as the ‘Black Live Matter’ movement.
On Sunday, Armstrong posted a blog titled ‘Coinbase is a mission focused company’ on Medium in which he sets out how the company will “engage in broader societal issues during these difficult times”.
In short, he writes: “We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus”.
Armstrong argues that while engaging in social activism may be well intentioned, it has the “potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division”.
He cites “internal strife” at Google and Facebook as examples of the dangers of engaging in issues outside of a company’s core business and says “I believe that most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments”.
- Debate causes or political candidates internally
- Expect the company to represent our personal beliefs externally
- Assume negative intent, or not have each others back
- Take on activism outside of our core mission at work”
In his post, Armstrong mentions “employee walkouts” at the firm. In a Twitter thread, Erica Baker, director of engineering at GitHub, says that earlier this year a “large portion” of Coinbase’s engineering team “walked off the job” because Armstrong refused to put out a statement affirming that ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
sooo about this coinbase blog post. you know, when you publish something like this, you might piss off some of your team. and then they might talk.
(p.s. to coinbase GSOC: it’s nobody you expect and thankfully many cb employees know the importance of encryption and opsec. 😘) https://t.co/nJEBoVCeAL
— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) September 29, 2020
Baker’s assertion has been corroborated by The Verge.
Armstrong responded to the walkout by posting a Twitter thread saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ but the controversy appears to have contributed to the new “mission focused” push.
In an internal email, obtained by The Block, Armstrong acknowledges that some employees “have expressed disappointment and hurt” with the policy.
“Given the clarity we now have about this direction, I know that some of you are thinking about whether Coinbase is the right place for you to stay.”
The firm is offering people who want to quit four months’ severance if they have been with the firm for less than three years, and six months’ severance if they have been there for longer.
“It’s always sad when we see teammates go, but it can also be what is best for them and the company,” he writes.
Coinbase’s blunt refusal to be drawn into wider societal issues is at odds with the stance of many firms, which have been eager to voice their support, in particular, for ‘Black Lives Matter’.
Some have gone beyond statements – for example PayPal committed $550 million to black and minority businesses and communities.
Meanwhile Twitter and Square chief Jack Dorsey, a Bitcoin-enthusiast, has had his say, suggesting that the very nature of crypto means it has to be linked to wider societal issues.
#Bitcoin (aka “crypto”) is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society. Important to at *least* acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily. This leaves people behind: https://t.co/0LMlF1qcmG
— jack (@jack) September 30, 2020