Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

source-codesource codeauthorLevi SumagaysayNoneWant your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get David Pierce's daily newsletter.64fd3cbe9f
×

Get access to Protocol

Your information will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber
People

Oracle employees log off to protest Ellison’s Trump fundraiser

Business experts say Ellison's actions are business as usual, but some employees see it differently.

Oracle chair Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison's decision to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump prompted a protest by Oracle staffers Thursday.

Photo: Getty Images North America

When about 300 Oracle employees staged a virtual walkout on Thursday, they were protesting Chairman Larry Ellison's decision to host a fundraiser for President Trump this week, according to an organizer. Many expressed dismay. Why would Ellison support Trump so publicly? The financial support "damages our company," employees wrote in a petition that now has more than 8,300 signatures. But experts say that Ellison's support of the president is most likely all about protecting Oracle's business interests.

Companies as big as Oracle need to stay in the government's good graces. "When you get any industry that gets big enough, whether it's oil and the railroads, or automakers, or tech, they have different relationships with lawmakers," said Margaret O'Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington who researches Silicon Valley. She said as tech has become increasingly dominant, leaders like Ellison may feel the need to engage with the administration even in the face of employee opposition.

Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.

But Oracle may need the administration even more than other companies, at least right now.

The company is locked in a high-profile suit against Google. On Wednesday, the Trump administration submitted an amicus brief taking Oracle's side in the long-running copyright fight between Google and Oracle, which is going to be heard by the Supreme Court next month. There seems to be "crony capitalism going on with the Google-Oracle case. It does smell bad," said Jeff Cowie, a fellow at Stanford and a Vanderbilt University history professor who has written books on labor and politics.

This administration has been good to big business in general, notes Rebecca Eisler, assistant professor of political science at San Francisco State University. "The administration's position toward business and industry, broadly speaking, has been in support of deregulation, tax incentives and subsidies," she said.

Ellison, who co-founded the Redwood Shores-based database company and is No. 7 on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, called himself a lifelong Democrat and a Bill Clinton fan in a Playboy interview in 2002. But since then he has supported politicians on both sides of the aisle: He donated to a political action committee for Republican Mitt Romney when he ran for president; hosted President Barack Obama on a weekend golfing trip; and hosted fundraisers for Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

"I remember many years ago when he was talking to engineering, he said he was a Democrat," said Pearl Ong, a software engineer who has worked at Oracle for more than 20 years. "Then I saw a couple years ago he was supporting Marco Rubio. But to have a fundraiser for Dumpster? I can't believe it."

Ong — who speculated that Ellison may be holding out hope that Oracle still has a chance to win the JEDI cloud-computing contract from the Pentagon — is one of the thousands of employees who has signed the petition, which called on the company leadership to urge Ellison to cancel the fundraiser.

"Every year Oracle employees must take ethics, harassment and diversity training reflecting Oracle's stated values of responsible business practice and treating everyone fairly and with respect," wrote Joe McClintock, another software engineer, in the petition. "Larry Ellison is the face of Oracle and as such he is supporting a person who is the antithesis of these values? This is so, so wrong."

Another employee, Steven Feuerstein, tweeted: "For me, opposition to Trump is no longer a matter of political viewpoint, of disagreeing with his mostly awful policies. It is a matter of whether you believe in the rule of law."

One of the organizers of Thursday's worker action — which asked employees to log off and spend the rest of the day contributing to causes such as immigration, gender equity or the environment — said the company also forbids making political donations on behalf of Oracle.

While Ellison may have been acting as a private citizen, it's hard to see him as such, said the organizer, an Oracle employee based in New York. "It's really hard not to see Larry Ellison as chairman, not to mention his symbolic meaning to the company," she said.

Several Oracle employees told Protocol the company has not addressed the worker actions at all. No emails or announcements. But the organizer said a handful of others were unable to access the worker-action website from their work laptops Thursday, getting the following error message when they tried: "Access to this site may not be permitted by the Oracle Acceptable Use Policy."

"The site was not intentionally blocked by Oracle," said company spokesperson Deborah Hellinger. "It was temporarily blocked by a 'false positive' from our McAfee network security and antivirus software."

The organizer also said her manager had told her that Ellison "is asking our bosses about us." She said that some employees partaking in Thursday's action fear the company could retaliate.

An Oracle spokesperson said the company would have no comment on the worker action.

Despite the fact that "everything has become political" in Silicon Valley, as O'Mara puts it, the Oracle employees' actions were relatively small compared with other higher-profile walkouts at companies like Google. And the Oracle action was not universally supported within the company. "If Larry wants to support Trump as a citizen of this nation, he has that right, and I support it (may not agree with it but that is not the point)," said Todd Fitzwater, a VP at Oracle Netsuite. Other employees expressed similar sentiments in the comments section of the petition.

But as recent employee activism in the valley has shown, if the Oracle protests continue or grow it could become a bigger problem for the company. "Silicon Valley has always been about the people, we shouldn't underestimate that," O'Mara said.

Power

The video game industry is bracing for its Netflix and Spotify moment

Subscription gaming promises to upend gaming. The jury's out on whether that's a good thing.

It's not clear what might fall through the cracks if most of the biggest game studios transition away from selling individual games and instead embrace a mix of free-to-play and subscription bundling.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Subscription services are coming for the game industry, and the shift could shake up the largest and most lucrative entertainment sector in the world. These services started as small, closed offerings typically available on only a handful of hardware platforms. Now, they're expanding to mobile phones and smart TVs, and promising to radically change the economics of how games are funded, developed and distributed.

Of the biggest companies in gaming today, Amazon, Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nvidia, Sony and Ubisoft all operate some form of game subscription. Far and away the most ambitious of them is Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, featuring more than 100 games for $9.99 a month and including even brand-new titles the day they release. As of January, Game Pass had more than 18 million subscribers, and Microsoft's aggressive investment in a subscription future has become a catalyst for an industrywide reckoning on the likelihood and viability of such a model becoming standard.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

Keep Reading Show less
Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Policy

Lina Khan wants to hear from you

The new FTC chair is trying to get herself, and the sometimes timid tech-regulating agency she oversees, up to speed while she still can.

Lina Khan is trying to push the FTC to corral tech companies

Photo: Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images

"When you're in D.C., it's very easy to lose connection with the very real issues that people are facing," said Lina Khan, the FTC's new chair.

Khan made her debut as chair before the press on Wednesday, showing up to a media event carrying an old maroon book from the agency's library and calling herself a "huge nerd" on FTC history. She launched into explaining how much she enjoys the open commission meetings she's pioneered since taking over in June. That's especially true of the marathon public comment sessions that have wrapped up each of the two meetings so far.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | Fintech

Beyond Robinhood: Stock exchange rebates are under scrutiny too

Some critics have compared the way exchanges attract orders from customers to the payment for order flow system that has enriched retail brokers.

The New York Stock Exchange is now owned by the Intercontinental Exchange.

Photo: Aditya Vyas/Unsplash

As questions pile up about how powerful and little-known Wall Street entities rake in profits from stock trading, the exchanges that handle vast portions of everyday trading are being scrutinized for how they make money, too.

One mechanism in particular — exchange rebates, or payments from the exchanges for getting certain trades routed to them — has raised concerns with regulators and members of Congress.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Workplace

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates

An employee walkout, a tumbling stock price and damning new reports of misconduct.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is in crisis mode. The World of Warcraft publisher was the subject of a shocking lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week over claims of widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination against female employees. The resulting fallout has only intensified by the day, culminating in a 500-person walkout at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine on Wednesday.

The company's stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard's initial response was "tone deaf." Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry's largest and most powerful employers.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Latest Stories