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Dan Price resigns as CEO of payments firm after misconduct allegations

·3-min read

Dan Price, the chief executive of a Seattle-based credit card processing company who made headlines when he implemented a $70,000 minimum wage, has abruptly resigned after accusations of misconduct and misdemeanor criminal charges that he assaulted a woman after a dinner meeting.

Price, who started Gravity Payments in 2004 at age 19, wrote in an email he was stepping away from the company because “my presence has become a distraction here.

“I also need to step aside from these duties to focus full time on fighting false accusations made against me,” he added. “I’m not going anywhere.”

According to the Seattle Times, Price started the company in 2004 in his dorm at Seattle Pacific University using money from his older brother. He got the idea for the payments system while playing in a rock band at a coffee shop.

Eleven years later, he shocked the business community by announcing that he would cut his $1m salary to accommodate pay rises for all 120 employees, from sales to administration. Price told the New York Times that workers would be getting raises over three years, bringing the minimum salary of every employee to $70,000. The company called the program “The Gravity of $70k”.

“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Price told employees at the time. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

Price later credited a 2010 academic paper titled “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being” for the idea and noted the growing disparities between executives and line workers, which was then at around 354-1 but has now grown to 670-1, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. Slightly less than half of the company’s 70 employees saw their pay double.

“The market rate for me as a CEO compared to a regular person is ridiculous. It’s absurd,” Price said at the time. “As much as I’m a capitalist, there is nothing in the market that is making me do it.”

The move established Price as a progressive CEO, and his company marketed itself as being for “the little gal or guy who believes in the American dream and is willing to work to chase it”.

But Price ran into legal trouble. He was sued by his brother, who claimed he was overpaying himself. The lawsuit failed. Then Bloomberg reported on a 2015 Tedx Talk given by Price’s wife, Kristie Colon, in which she described being waterboarded and beaten by her ex. Colon did not name Price, who told the outlet that the events “never happened”.

Mysterious flyers appeared near Gravity’s headquarters asking, “Have you been abused by Dan Price? We hear you. We believe you. We support you.”

Then, in February this year, Price was charged with misdemeanor assault and reckless driving. According to court documents, reported by the Seattle Times, a 26-year-old woman called Seattle police to report that she had met Price at a restaurant to discuss “professional matters”.

In his Tesla sedan after the dinner, prosecutors said, Price had attempted to kiss the woman, grabbed her throat when she refused, and then performed “doughnuts” with the car in a parking lot. Price has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“Mr Price respects the legal process and is confident that he will be vindicated in court,” Price’s defense attorney, Mark Middaugh, wrote in an email to the Seattle paper.

After resigning on Wednesday, Price posted a statement on Twitter listing his accomplishments in workers’ pay, overall employee satisfaction, time off, parental leave and retention. “I’m proud of what we’ve done,” he said.