Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price, who once gave himself a pay cut to offer all of his employees generous minimum salaries, resigned his post on Tuesday.
Price earned national media attention in 2015 by slashing his $1 million salary to $70,000 while guaranteeing his 120 employees the same amount in minimum annual pay — a move that The New York Times called a “swashbuckling blow against income inequality.” Some veteran employees at the Seattle credit card payment company, however, resigned their positions amid perceived unfairness as new hires saw their earnings double.
“Seattle is not the most affordable city and I want everyone that I know and care about to be able to do all the same basic stuff that I do,” Price said at the time, according to NBC News. “I want them to be able to drive whatever car they want to drive as long as it’s reasonable, live in a decent place. Just all the basics.”
Price was charged in February with fourth-degree assault, fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, and reckless driving, according to the Seattle Times. The executive allegedly cornered a woman in his Tesla, attempting to kiss her and grabbing her throat when she declined his overture. Price allegedly proceeded to drive doughnuts in a parking lot while the woman was still in the vehicle.
Citing the charges, Price announced his resignation in a Tuesday statement, which also named Gravity COO Tammi Kroll as the company’s new chief executive.
“My No. 1 priority is for our employees to work for the best company in the world, but my presence has become a distraction here,” Price wrote. “I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me. I’m not going anywhere.”
Mark Middaugh, a defense attorney for Price, told the Seattle Times that the allegations are “absolutely false.”
“We have already obtained evidence that contradicts key details of the police report and raises serious doubts about the complainant’s credibility,” he said. “Mr. Price respects the legal process and is confident that he will be vindicated in court.”
In addition to serving as a paragon for progressive corporate wealth distribution, Price — who has since increased minimum pay at Gravity to $80,000 — is an outspoken critic of perceived income inequality. Sharing an article from ProPublica called The Secret IRS Files, Price blasted Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last year for reportedly paying no income taxes — a claim that ignores the other ways in which the top 1% provide a plurality of federal tax revenue.
Many lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have nevertheless introduced new tax proposals that would lead to wealthy Americans paying their “fair share.” The Ultra-Millionaire Tax, for example, would introduce a 2% annual tax on the net worth of households holding between $50 million and $1 billion, as well as an additional 1% tax on those with more than $1 billion.
“As Congress develops additional plans to help our economy, the wealth tax should be at the top of the list to help pay for these plans because of the huge amounts of revenue it would generate,” Warren argued. “This is money that should be invested in child care and early education, K-12, infrastructure, all of which are priorities of President Biden and Democrats in Congress.”
After Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced last year that he had paid $11 billion in taxes, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who also supports the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, criticized him for failing to pay his “fair share.”