Kraken CEO is fueling a 'corporate culture war,' reports the New York Times

Quick Take

  • A New York Times report cites several examples suggesting that Kraken CEO Jesse Powell is at the center of a “corporate culture war” at the firm over certain political issues.
  • Employees have until Monday to agree to the terms set in a culture document released by the company on June 1, or leave and receive four months’ pay.

The work culture at crypto-exchange Kraken has turned toxic and CEO Jesse Powell is at the center of it, a new report from the New York Times claims. 

According to the report, Powell has allegedly led discussions on the company’s Slack channels where he objected to employees' use of preferred pronouns, debated who should be able to use certain racial slurs, and called American women “brainwashed.”

Kraken also released a 31-page culture document explaining Kraken’s “libertarian philosophical values,” which included tolerance for “diverse thinking” and affirmed the right of law-abiding citizens to arm themselves. The document was released alongside what Powell called the “Jet Ski Program,” which specified that anyone who disagreed with it was encouraged to leave the company and claim four months' pay.

Powell, a 41-year-old Bitcoin pioneer who founded Kraken in 2011 with Thanh Luu, is part of a shrinking cohort of crypto entrepreneurs who remain committed to the original vision of Bitcoin, a philosophy that challenges institutional forms of power. As mainstream interest in crypto has grown, these ideals have been challenged in the workplace. 

Kraken is one of a number of technology companies that have been embroiled in politically charged conflict during the coronavirus pandemic, as remote work, diversity, and inequality have become important issues to more employees.

The firm currently employs more than 3000 workers and, according to data compiled by The Block Research, was the fourth-largest crypto exchange by trading volume in May.

According to the Times report, on Monday Christina Yee, a Kraken executive, wrote on Slack that “C.E.O., company, and culture are not going to change in a meaningful way.” She added:

“If someone strongly dislikes or hates working here or thinks those here are hateful or have poor character,” she said, “work somewhere that doesn’t disgust you.” Employees have until Monday to decide whether to opt into the Jet Ski program.

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