Coinbase to lay off 18% of workforce following petition to replace execs

After growing fourfold over the past 18 months, Coinbase got to a point where anonymous employees demanded the departure of top execs. Days later, the company announced it was slashing 18% of the workforce, effective immediately.

Brian Armstrong speaking at a conference
Brian Armstrong in 2018. Source: TechCrunch, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Crypto exchange Coinbase is cutting approximately 1,100 jobs, reducing its global workforce by 18%, the company CEO Brian Armstrong announced on Tuesday.

The decision comes after weeks of uncertainty that saw Coinbase suspend hiring, then rescind job offers that had already been accepted, and on the heels of an anonymous petition to replace COO Emilie Choi, CPO Surojit Chatterjee, and Chief People Officer LJ Brock.

The petition openly decried a number of Coinbase’s missteps, including the failure of the Coinbase NFT platform, “unsustainable” hiring strategies, and a “generally apathetic and sometimes condescending attitude” of the executives.

In a sharp rebuke of the petition, Armstrong called it “really dumb on multiple levels” and suggested that if caught, the authors and supporters would be fired.

Tuesday’s layoffs were shrouded in a different narrative, though, without even a hint that the affected employees were signatories of the petition. Instead, Armstrong cited economic conditions and cost management, adding that the company had grown “too quickly” as it quadrupled its workforce amid the bull market of early 2021.

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“The broader market downturn means that we need to be more mindful of costs as we head into a potential recession,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said on Twitter.

But the execution of the layoffs is abrupt enough to suggest it might have something to do with the petition after all, as affected employees are to receive a notification in their personal email by the end of the day. Access to the company network will be revoked immediately, Armstrong confirmed, “to ensure not even a single person made a rash decision that harmed the business or themselves.”

Departing employees will receive 14 weeks of severance pay and an additional 2 weeks of pay for every year of employment beyond 12 months, as well as four months of health insurance for US-based employees, and four months of mental health support globally.

Coinbase stock (NASDAQ: COIN) fell 4.68% today, and 80% since the start of the year. And as the company shrinks, another grows.