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Coinbase is losing scores of staffers over ban on political activism

Coinbase Chief Executive Brian Armstrong is shown in 2014.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, shown in 2014, said about 5% of the cryptocurrency exchange’s workers accepted an exit package.
(Anthony Harvey / Getty Images)

Coinbase Inc., the cryptocurrency exchange, is losing about 60 employees who balked at a management mandate barring political activism at work.

Chief Executive Brian Armstrong said Thursday in a blog post that about 5% of Coinbase‘s employees had accepted an exit package offered to staffers bothered by the policy, and that the number will probably grow.

“There are a handful of other conversations still ongoing, so the final number will likely be a bit higher,” Armstrong said, adding that members of underrepresented groups haven’t disproportionately taken the exit package.

About 8% of staffers had expressed interest, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified, but the total isn’t expected to reach that high.

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Armstrong told employees in late September that he was offering generous severance packages to those who didn’t want to comply with his prohibition on activism at work. Many staffers were shocked by the new rules, designed to give the company an “apolitical culture.” Some workers were concerned that Armstrong was trying to stymie discourse that they said should be happening.

In his blog, Armstrong clarified that conversations about current events related to work are permitted.

“We have just made a decision to not engage in broader activism as a company outside of our mission,” he said. Being political about cryptocurrencies is allowed as well “because it relates to our mission,” he added.

The polarizing 2020 campaign, epitomized by last week’s acrimonious presidential debate, has left many companies struggling to stay above the fray. That may be especially hard for cryptocurrency companies, many of which were started by libertarians looking to escape government influence by using digital coins.


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