Coinbase’s chief compliance officer leaving, as dozens of staffers take exit package

Jeff Horowitz’s departure is said to be unrelated to Coinbase’s controversial decision to adopt an ‘apolitical’ stance on societal issues

Coinbase’s chief compliance officer Jeff Horowitz is leaving, as the exchange continues to grapple with an exodus of staff triggered by a desire to become “apolitical.”

The company’s CEO, Brian Armstrong, attracted controversy by saying that Coinbase does not engage with topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement—and instead, employees should be “laser focused” on achieving the company’s mission.

Armstrong also invited Coinbase staff who disagreed with this approach to accept a generous exit package—and in a recent blog post, revealed that 60 staff (about 5% of his workforce) had decided to take the offer.

The Block reported that Horowitz’s departure is unrelated—adding that chief legal officer Paul Grewal will take over his duties until a successor can be found.

“Jeff played an active role in helping to shape crypto and AML regulation with FATF, FinCEN, Dept. of Treasury and regulators around the globe. We’re grateful for his service and wish him the best in the future,” a Coinbase spokesperson told the publication.

A short tenure

Horowitz joined Coinbase in the middle of 2018 after spending 12 years at Pershing LLC, a BNY Mellon company. In an announcement at the time, the exchange described his appointment as an important step in its quest to become “the world’s most trusted and easiest to use cryptocurrency service.”

Armstrong has defended the changes he has made to Coinbase’s culture, especially in the face of criticism that suggested it could have a disproportionate impact on employees from a minority background. In an email updating staff last week, the CEO said “under-represented groups at Coinbase have not taken the exit package in numbers disproportionate to the overall population.”

He also stressed that employees do not have to pretend that politics doesn’t exist—and instead, Coinbase staff are asked to exercise “good judgment” on social media.

Other high-profile crypto executives have taken a dim view toward Armstrong’s stance—including Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square.

On Sept. 30, he said: ““Bitcoin […] is direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society. Important to at *least* acknowledge and connect the related societal issues your customers face daily. This leaves people behind.”

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.