At least 60 Coinbase employees are quitting after the CEO declared an 'apolitical culture' at the $8 billion unicorn startup

  • 60 employees, or about 5% of Coinbase's staff, is leaving in the aftermath of a controversial policy that forbids employees from talking about political and social causes at work, according to the company.
  • Employees had one week to decide if they wanted to take a severance package.
  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wrote in a new memo to employees that people in minority groups did not make up a "disproportionate" number of employees leaving compared to the overall group.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

About 5% of Coinbase's workforce — 60 people so — are quitting the company and taking severance after the CEO declared a new policy that bans politics and social activism from the office, according to the company.

That policy ignited both praise and backlash from Silicon Valley leaders.

In a memo to employees that was provided to Business Insider on Thursday, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said the week was filled with "many difficult conversations." He thanked those leaving for their contributions, and recognized that he "could have done a better job" explaining the policy to employees ahead of posting it to Medium.

"It's been great to see the whole team come together to reach understanding here, and support each other through it. It's not easy to get through, but I think it will result in us having a stronger and more united team," he wrote.

The final count of employees taking severance is expected to be higher, as some employees are still in talks to leave.

Employees had one week to decide if they want to opt into an "apolitical culture" at the company, as Armstrong put it his most recent memo. And if they decided Coinbase is no longer the place for them, they would receive an exit package that includes four to six months severance pay and health care coverage for up to six months. The company gives any employee at Coinbase longer than two years a period of seven years to buy or sell their stock options.

"My friends there have said it's been a nightmare," a former employee, who left much earlier, told us. She spoke on a condition of anonymity because she did not want to get her coworkers in trouble for telling her what it was like.

Another former employee who said he's been chatting online with a group of current employees told us they were unhappy that they had to make a decision in a week. They worried about finding jobs in a pandemic and making ends meet.

The company did not specify how many people in each role or department are leaving, although an anonymous source speaking to CoinDesk said that most people taking severance are engineers.

The engineering team led a virtual walkout in June after a companywide meeting where Armstrong would not say, "Black lives matter." Armstrong later wrote the words in a lengthy tweet thread that day.

The CEO did, however, say that people in minority groups were not a majority of people leaving.

"I've heard a concern from some of you that this clarification would disproportionately impact our under-represented minority population at Coinbase," he wrote. "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. We'll continue to keep a close eye on this to ensure we are building a diverse, inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong."

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