Expensify CEO David Barrett emailed the company’s 10 million customers on Thursday in an unusual tone: vote for Biden, he called on them or risks damaging the nation’s democracy. The e-mail was met with both support and condemnation, with critics calling it “political propaganda” and misuse of customer emails.
Barrett told CBS MoneyWatch that his company sent the email to its 10 million customers on Thursday because it was “trying to do what we can to support and defend democracy against voter repression.” Barrett founded Expensify in 2008 to facilitate the submission of costs.
At the same time, consumers are increasingly motivated to buy from companies that conform to their personal beliefs.
Expensify’s email was a continuation of the company’s work on social issues such as Black Lives Matter and anti-hunger initiatives, Barrett told CBS. He added that he and his staff had discussed how to run in the Nov. 3 election and that a majority of employees had voted in favor of sending the email to their clients.
“It’s not done as a business calculation,” Barrett said. “But in the end, I think it will be good for business.”
The Expensify email has been criticized not only for its political message, but also because the company relies on its corporate data, and some on social media call it “spam” and misuse of their information.
“The email from @expensify’s CEO to their customer database is completely inappropriate [sic] regardless of your political views. General spam. We use them. Alternatives? Carlos Domingo, co-founder and CEO of digital securities company Securitize, wrote on Twitter.
Barrett said it was too early to say whether the company would lose customers because of the email. “This is the great thing in a democracy: They can vote with their wallets,” Barrett said. “We support whatever decision they make.”
At the same time, some companies have succeeded in aligning themselves politically with certain views, such as the spice company Penzey, whose CEO Bill Penzi spoke out against Mr. Trump’s ideology and won a cult as a result. Accenture, a consulting firm, recently found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say their shopping behavior is directed at companies that support views or causes they agree with.
Barrett did not spare his criticism and feared a second term for Mr. Trump in an email to clients.
“We are facing an unprecedented attack on the foundations of democracy itself. If you are a US citizen, anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy,” Barrett said in an email. “I say vote for Trump, vote for a third-party candidate or just not vote at all – they are all the same and they all mean: “I’m more interested in my favorite question than democracy.”
He added that his company relies on “a functioning economy and society; not many cost reports are submitted during a civil war. ‘