Right Hooks

Seattle Minimum Wage 'Hero' Under New Scrutiny

Did he have a hidden agenda?

Jordan Candler · Dec. 3, 2015

“It seemed too good to be true.” That’s how Bloomberg Businessweek’s Karen Weise begins a new investigative piece into the story of Dan Price, the Seattle-based Gravity Payments CEO who was showered with adoration by wage “justice” advocates when he slashed his own annual salary to $70,000 and gave every one of his employees a minimum wage of equal amount. We’ve already documented the fallout that caused and how good intentions don’t always make for good policy. But what if Price had ulterior motives all along? Say, a plot to hedge against his own brother, Lucas, a co-founder of the company who, by Dan’s account, filed a lawsuit in response to the grand reshuffling? That’s the question that’s been raised through Weise’s research, who discovered this story may be too good to be true after all:

The lawsuit predates the raise. Lucas did file the case two weeks after Price’s announcement, but according to court records, Price was served with the suit at his house on the afternoon of March 16 — about two weeks before the fabled hike with his friend and almost a month before the wage increase announcement. …

The lawsuit is light on details, but it claims that Price “improperly used his majority control of the company” to overpay himself, in the process reducing what Lucas was due. …

If the lawsuit wasn’t a reaction to the wage hike, could it have been the other way around? After all, Price announced his magnanimous act a month after his brother sued him for, in essence, being greedy.

Dan denies all this even though documentation proves he received the paperwork before giving his employees raises. Weise has extensive background on the story, which you can read in its entirety here. And while her theory remains speculation for now, “One aspect of Price’s saga is certain,” she concludes: “Seventy employees at Gravity now earn far more than they did before. Was it altruism or a costly lawsuit that motivated it? If his book doesn’t provide answers, perhaps Lucas’s case, which goes to trial in May, will.” At which point we’ll know if Price implemented a bad plan with good intentions or whether he just had bad intentions all along.

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