Crypto exchange Coinbase comments on negative ‘New York Times’ story that hasn’t been published yet

The New York Times is (probably) about to publish a story about cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. But we’re not reading about it on the news outlet’s website, because Coinbase has taken the highly unusual step of publishing some of the details about the forthcoming story itself, in order to mitigate the damage. 

According to Coinbase’s blog post, the NYT will publish the story somewhere between now and Sunday. The article, Coinbase says, will “allege that several Black employees had negative experiences at Coinbase over the last few years.”

Coinbase’s expounding of what it thinks the NYT will publish boils down to this: Three former Coinbase employees and a contractor will likely be quoted in the story. The article will allege that the company discriminated against Black employees in the wake of the company’s internal organizational changes that took place in 2018. This year’s Black Lives Matter protests and Coinbase’s discussions around them will also be mentioned. The NYT will allege that complaints were filed from a number of Black employees.

Coinbase claims the NYT story will “paint an inaccurate picture that lacks complete information and context.” According to the company’s post, the complaints from these former employees were “thoroughly investigated,” and no evidence of wrongdoing was found. Also, the company said it’s “committed to maintaining an environment that is safe, supportive and welcoming to employees of all backgrounds.” 

There’s a good reason why companies typically do not try to front-run negative media stories like this: it almost never works. While it’s hard to comment before we see what the NYT will publish, it’s quite possible that that story will contain a number of other details not mentioned by Coinbase. Worse, it’s also possible that the story contains other, partially related or non-related elements that Coinbase doesn’t want the readers to focus on. But now that the company has gone ahead and published their response before the NYT has published its story, make no mistake — every little detail in the NYT‘s story will be thoroughly analyzed by other media outlets, analysts, and commentators. 

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong ruffled some feathers in September, when he published a post saying that Coinbase is a “mission focused company,” which more or less meant that the company wants to stay neutral on politics and broader social issues. Some 5 percent of the Coinbase staff left the company following Armstrong’s announcement. 

On Wednesday, Armstrong tweeted about the rumors of the U.S. secretary of the treasury Steven Terner Mnuchin “planning to rush out some new regulation regarding self-hosted crypto wallets before the end of his term.” According to Armstrong, the proposed regulation would require cryptocurrency exchanges to verify the owners of self-hosted crypto wallets before they can withdraw funds to such wallets. Armstrong then explained why this would be a bad and impractical idea, and said that the company sent a letter to the Treasury last week, co-signed by a number of other crypto companies, articulating their concerns.  

While seemingly unrelated to the NYT‘s upcoming story, the timing of Armstrong’s tweets is notable as they came just a few hours ahead of Coinbase’s blog post.

We’ve asked Coinbase for more information and will update this story when we hear back. 

Roughly coinciding with Coinbase’s latest post and Armstrong’s tweets on new regulation, the prices of major cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, fell sharply after reaching yearly highs of $19,500 and $620 earlier this week. Bitcoin is currently trading at about $17,050, while Ethereum is at $515.

Disclosure: The author of this text owns, or has recently owned, a number of cryptocurrencies, including BTC and ETH.

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