The New York Times has published a critique of Coinbase’s internal diversity policies, with several former employees complaining of “racist or discriminatory” treatment.
The report by journalist Nathaniel Popper, published Friday, is based on commentary from 23 current and former Coinbase employees. It paints the picture of a company that “has long struggled with its management of Black employees.”
Coinbase, which became aware of a potential story during the fact-checking process, attempted to front-run the story Wednesday evening. The company emailed a statement to its employees and then published that email in a blog post, alerting the public to an imminent “negative story.”
“Given that this story may be read by your friends, family and professional contacts, we wanted to give everyone a heads-up and provide some important context,” the statement reads. Notably, it expressed the company’s belief that the NYT’s report would “likely quote” three former Coinbase employees and one former contractor. This proved to be an underestimation.
The NYT’s report details several incidences of allegedly discriminatory behavior, ranging from racial stereotyping to inadequate practices around the hiring and promotion of Black employees. The Times reports that at least 11 former employees contacted the human resources department or their managers about such incidents.
Crypto, like the larger tech industry, has come under fire for a lack of diversity. In an opinion piece for CoinDesk titled “The Crypto Community Needs to Stand Up and Fight Racism,” Robert Greenfield, CEO of Emerging Impact, wrote, “The crypto community is conveniently selective about what aspects of society it wants to change.”
“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said one former Coinbase employee, Alysa Butler, in Popper’s article. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”
Kim Milosevich, a Coinbase spokesperson, told the New York Times the company “does not tolerate racial, gender or any other forms of discrimination.” She is also quoted as saying, “All claims of discrimination are treated very seriously, investigated by both internal and third parties, and the appropriate action is taken.”
Coinbase, an $8 billion exchange, made headlines in September after CEO Brian Armstrong published an open letter declaring Coinbase as an “apolitical” and “mission driven” company, with the understanding that social justice issues should not be discussed on company time or channels.
Days later, the company offered a severance package for all employees who were uncomfortable with Armstrong’s mission statement. As of Oct. 14, 5% of Coinbase employees had left the firm.
Coinbase is one of crypto’s most valuable and public exchanges. The company is reportedly exploring a public stock offering in 2021.