Disney has once again fired back as part of their continued attempt to cast doubt over a meticulously-worded and researched letter sent to company executives Bob Iger and Bob Chapek, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren—also known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street.”
In her letter, Senator Warren demanded answers in the wake of mass layoffs impacting up to 28,000 Cast Members across Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, citing the reinstatement of the salaries of executives just months before the mass layoff, among other questionable company priorities, such as the payment of generous dividends to shareholders and stock buybacks. The Senator requested a response by October 27, to which Chapek has finally answered.
At first, Disney sidestepped her questions by dismissing them during a “Closing Bell” segment on CNBC, with a company spokesperson simply stating that the letter was “filled with inaccuracies.”
In a recent post by CNN’s Frank Pallotta, snippets of Bob Chapek’s response are outlined. He writes that Senator Warren’s “indictment that our past actions somehow weakened our financial cushion and our ability to retain and pay workers amid the pandemic is ill-considered and misleading.”
As you are well aware, this unprecedented crisis has had a devastating impact on companies nationwide, and businesses large and small have had to take the difficult steps required to weather the impact…
As we have stated, given the ongoing uncertainties of this pandemic, including limits on capacity to promote social distancing, and the State of California’s refusal to permit a safe reopening any time soon, it unfortunately is not feasible to pay non-working employees indefinitely.
Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company
Senator Warren’s response was more concise, stating:
Disney won’t answer my questions because it has no good answers. The company said it was simply unfeasible to keep paying workers yet had no explanation for how it was feasible to restore senior executive pay.
Senator Elizabeth Warren
For reference, these are the seven follow-up questions she concluded her initial letter with:
- Which types of Disney employees will be laid off per Mr. D’Amaro’s September 29, 2020 memo? What was the anticipated monthly total cost of wages for these employees? Do any of these employees have recall rights? If so, will these individuals retain their seniority if rehired by Disney?
- How were decisions made with regard to which employees would be laid off?
- Will Disney provide health care coverage for laid-off employees? Will Disney cover any premiums for this health care coverage? If so, which laid-off employees?
a. Will Disney provide any additional support for these employees?
- How much in total compensation has Disney awarded each of its top executives and its Board members, in (a) FY 2019; and (b) FY 2020? Please describe the components of this compensation.
- What specific cuts in executive salary and compensation were made at the beginning of the pandemic? Are reports that these cuts have been reversed – in whole or in part – accurate?
- What is the total value of stock buybacks made by Disney in each quarter starting in FY2016? To what extent did this increase the stock’s value, and to what extent did it benefittop executives and members of the Board?
- How much has Disney paid its shareholders in dividends in each year since 2017? To what extent did this benefit top executives and members of the Board?
Her thoughts mirror many of the opinions we’ve reflected across our posts here at WDWNT—especially considering the ongoing and devastating mass Cast Member layoffs—and we appreciate her taking a stand on behalf of Cast Members across both coasts.