SF Crypto CEO Says Debate Over Pronouns and Race Is Distracting

Cryptocurrency markets have been choppy in recent weeks, with bitcoin losing half its value compared to a year ago, while other cryptocurrencies have plummeted as inflation picks up and fears of a recession loom.

These dismal economic indicators have led to large layoffs at cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase, which has slashed around a fifth of its staff this week. They are also fueling internal conflict at another of the world’s biggest exchanges, San Francisco’s Kraken.

The company’s CEO, Jesse Powell, said in a Twitter wire On Wednesday, that debate over diversity, equity and inclusion issues for some employees became a distraction from the company’s goals.

Powell accused the activist staff of being short-sighted, saying, “Do you want to be ‘inclusive’ by asking a Saudi ESL candidate their pronouns/gender in a job interview?”

“Great talent, poor fit,” Powell wrote of what he characterized as a small group of employees who were not sufficiently focused on the company’s goals and who he later characterized as “awake.”

“When things were rosy, everyone got along. When things started to look bleak, sensitivities and misalignment appeared,” he said, seeming to refer to the bearish cryptocurrency market. “People focused on small offenses, first world problems, rather than our really big and important mission of helping billions of people.”

Powell said debates over pronouns and race have become distractions from the company’s mission to accelerate the global adoption of cryptocurrencies, adding: “…people are triggered by everything and cannot conform to the ground rules of honest debate. Back to dictatorship.”

Powell also said he believed an employee had shared internal conversations with a journalist and expected a negative article about the company to be published soon.

On Wednesday, the New York Times ran a lengthy story in which it said Powell quizzed employees by choosing their own pronouns and raised questions about women’s intelligence, also starting a discussion about who can use “the n-word,” though he be white.

A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking to verify these allegations.

This isn’t the first time Kraken has clashed with its own employees. Its parent has sued employees who left anonymous comments on ratings site Glassdoor after a round of layoffs in an attempt to reveal their identities.

Unlike companies like Coinbase, which have sought to cut staff as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency holdings tumbled, Kraken said it would not lay off anyone and planned to continue hiring hundreds of positions this year — but only the right kinds of people.

“We understand that while we will always be a great place to work for some who share our mission, we may not be the most compatible company for others,” said a document describing the company’s culture.

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