Expensify CEO slams corporate America's response to the Capitol riots: 'Defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it'

Expensify CEO slams corporate America's response to the Capitol riots: 'Defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it'
David Barrett.David Barrett
  • Expensify CEO David Barrett slammed corporate America's response to the attacks on the US Capitol.
  • Barrett told Insider that defending free markets requires first defending democracy.
  • He also told Protocol most CEOs are "cowards" for refusing to take those stands.

As more companies publicly condemn the violent attacks on the US Capitol and pause their financial support for the lawmakers who helped fuel an attempted insurrection, Expensify CEO David Barrett has harsh words for the holdouts.

"Most CEOs, it's not that they're bad people, they're just cowards. They're like, 'yeah, I would like to take a stand, but I can't because of investors, customers and things like this,'" he told Protocol in an interview Tuesday.

"It basically comes down to, 'I care more about hitting the next quarter results than preventing a civil war,' which is so f---ed up. They're more afraid of their investors than they are of militants," Barrett said, according to Protocol.

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Barrett gained attention in October when he emailed Expensify's 10 million customers urging them to vote for then-candidate Joe Biden, and defending the move by saying: "Expensify depends on a functioning society and economy; not many expense reports get filed during a civil war."

Read more: 'Anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy': Expensify's CEO tells us why the company emailed 10 million customers urging them to vote for Biden


The move stood in stark contrast to companies like Facebook, Google, and Coinbase that had sought to crack down on political discussions internally.

But Barrett told Insider in an interview Tuesday that when it comes to actions as extreme as the attempted insurrection earlier this month by supporters of President Donald Trump, or Republican lawmakers' attempts to overturn democratic election results, "we're all obligated to step in."

That's especially the case for business leaders, he added, arguing that their companies depend on free markets to be successful and free markets depend on a functioning democracy.

"It's important for us to step in to defend the pillars of democracy - free speech, access to information, access to services, fair voting, and things like this - in order to maintain that free market," he said. "We need to defend the free market itself, which cannot be separated from democracy, but defending the free market does not mean standing by as people destroy it."

Barrett praised companies' decisions to pause their political contributions to the 147 Republicans who tried to challenge the Electoral College results, but added that those actions only matter if they're "sustained."


"Anyone who voted against certifying the results should probably be blacklisted from politics ... like, you can't be part of a democracy and then openly despise it," he said. "We need to make it overwhelmingly clear to our elected leaders that that is unacceptable. And I think that business owners, CEOs, business leaders, employees, everyone needs to speak with a united voice that democracy is more important than anything else."

While dozens of major corporations have suspended those political contributions, several have cut all ties to Trump, and one even called on Vice President Mike Pence to remove Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, few companies have committed to permanently cutting financial ties with anti-democratic lawmakers.