Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s somewhat controversial decision to create an apolitical workplace has resulted in around 60 employees (5% of its workforce) choosing to accept the severance/exit package and leaving the firm.
As Axios reported on October 1, it all started in June when “a group of Coinbase employees walked out after CEO Brian Armstrong did not immediately commit to making a public statement in support of Black Lives Matter.”
According to Axios, here’s what happened:
- Following George Floyd’s death on May 25 and the subsequent anti-racism (“Black Lives Matter”) protests that took place throughout the U.S., there was an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session between Armstrong and the company’s employees on June 4.
- A short time later, “employees convened online to discuss the meeting, and several senior managers encouraged co-workers to partake in a virtual walkout that day.”
- Later in the day, Armstrong posted a tweetstorm in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM).
- On June 5, Amrstrong “emails to employees apologizing for his handling of the topic during the meeting and assuring them of the company’s commitment to an inclusive workplace (including specific actions).”
Then, on September 27, Armstrong published a blog post titled “Coinbase is a mission focused company.” He said that he wants Coinbase to be “laser focused on achieving its mission” and to “focus minimally on causes not directly related to the mission.”
Four examples of such causes that he mentioned were “policy decisions”, “non-profit work”, “broader societal issues”, and “political causes.”
Then yesterday (October 8), Armstrong provided an update via another blog post on what had happened since his September 27 blog post.
According to the Coinbase CEO, his September 27 blog post “received quite a bit of attention, and sparked a lot of debate about how companies should operate.”
Following that post, Coinbase made “a generous exit package available to any employee who didn’t feel they could be on board with this direction.” Axios says that the severance package offered “includes four to six months of pay, six months of COBRA coverage, and a seven-year window to exercise stock options.” Employees had until October 7 to decide whether or not to opt in to this exit package.
The blog post Armstrong posted yesterday included the contents of an email he had sent that day to all Coinbase employees. This letter mentions what percentage of Coinbase employees decided to accept the company’s exit package:
“Many of you are probably curious about the outcome. I wanted to share that about 5% of employees (60) have decided to take the exit package. There are a handful of other conversations still ongoing, so the final number will likely be a bit higher…
“I’ve heard a concern from some of you that this clarification would disproportionately impact our under-represented minority population at Coinbase. It was reassuring to see that people from under-represented groups at Coinbase have not taken the exit package in numbers disproportionate to the overall population.”
One of those leaving was software engineer Clem Freeman:
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