In the current global climate where lines are being drawn over a number of thorny and often touchy issues, major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has made the decision to pull out of any political or social activism.
In an open letter, CEO Brian Armstrong stated that Coinbase is a “mission-focused” company and would not be engaging in any of the broader societal issues currently going on. The letter outlined: “a global pandemic, shelter in place, social unrest, widespread protests and riots, and west coast wildfires. On top of that, we have a contentious U.S. election on the horizon.”
Armstrong also stated that these issues had already led to employee walkouts, but the CEO then went on to draw the line in the sand as in a letter obtained by Coindesk to employees stated that employees unhappy with the new direction were informed they can take up a separation package because “life is too short to work at a company that you are not excited about.”
No room for activism
The decision by Armstrong not to allow for any sort of activism is in itself a stand at a time where many companies are wondering how to allow their employees to express their views. However, this move from Armstrong appears to be coming after already feeling the effects of employee activism that was not discouraged or encouraged.
The new direction however seemed to have ruffled a few feathers at the company as an anonymous source told Coindesk that employees were not happy with this new direction. Indeed, employees seem to have been given an ultimatum with the severance package.
The packages include four months’ severance for employees who have been at the exchange less than three years or six months for longer-term employees. Coinbase will also offer six months of health insurance through the U.S. government’s COBRA program.
In the original mission stating, Armstrong outlined the company mission, stating: “There are many places that a company can choose to allocate its limited time and resources. There is never enough time to do everything, so companies need to choose what change they want to see in the world and focus there. It can take decades to move the needle on large global challenges.”
The indication here being that the activism being seen at the moment is either a hindrance to the advancement of Coinbase, or that it is just not worth it as it will take “decades to move the needle on large global challenges.”
Dangers of revolt
The debate will rage on about a company’s role in activism, but this bold stance to do nothing may well lead to issues with the employee base. It has happened before where company missions and lack of decision making on touchy issues has caused problems, such when thousands of Google employees staged a walkout in 2018 over how the company handled sexual harassment allegations.
At the same time, Armstrong may well be aware that the activism attached to many poignant matters, such as the black lives matter’s movement, has political ties, or is at least used for political manoeuvring. And as such, this may well be the best route to remain apolitical in a time of a contentious election on the horizon. 7All alerts7 more alerts