The curious case of Coinbase — employees driven out by ‘apolitical’ stance

America’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, made headlines over the past few weeks for an internal culture change that effectively told employees that there will be no space for social activism within its walls. Furthermore, a recently leaked audio apparently reveals that most employees approve of the new direction.

The “apolitical” stance that is being adopted by the company was announced by CEO Brian Armstrong in a published post on the exchange’s Medium platform on Sept. 27. Armstrong’s message cited the incredibly difficult year that has hamstrung many economies, companies and individuals around the world, which has also led to a spring of various societal issues.

In an American context, the tragic death of George Floyd caused by the brutal treatment of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020 sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement and subsequent protests and demonstrations across the country. Many Americans decided to band together and speak out against abuse and inequality along the lines of race.

“Laser focused”

Armstrong’s post outlines the company’s desire “to be laser focused on achieving its mission,” which is to create an open financial system for the world by giving people access to cryptocurrency in order to drive economic freedom.

The CEO then highlighted his belief that allowing employees to spend time on social activism and other causes would hamper the company’s goals to build its own capacity, products and services. Armstrong highlights other Silicon Valley companies that actively encourage and engage in social activism before explaining why Coinbase has opted for a different approach:

“The reason is that while I think these efforts are well intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction, and by creating internal division.”

Furthermore, according to the CEO, “most employees don’t want to work in these divisive environments.” He further stated…

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