warren-v-chapek

Bob Chapek Responds to Senator Warren’s Letter, Still Gives No Explanation on How Disney Restored Senior Executive Pay Amidst Mass Cast Member Layoffs

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.”

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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:

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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:

  1. 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?
  2. How were decisions made with regard to which employees would be laid off?
  3. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.

  1. So, he didn’t really answer anything. His response was basically like a whining kid saying, “because it’s hard!”

    I can’t believe they had Chapek respond of all people.

    1. As someone who disagrees with the Senator on most issues, I wholeheartedly applaud her attempt to get answers to this. I am directly affected by The Company’s layoff decision I want answers too. Disney hasn’t paid furloughed workers since April other than covering their health insurance.

      We were hopeful that we were rounding a corner when they reinstated executive pay so it was a slap in the face with the layoff notice.

      I know many people who have decided to not come back if Disney calls, and many more (who got to choose) electing to just be laid off now just to get the 60 days pay because they don’t trust the company if there may be another layoff that nets them zero WARN or severance pay.

      The threshold for layoffs is 500 so Disney can continue to layoff without triggering WARN – so no 60 days pay. They could decimate entire departments at will with no repercussions.

  2. I applaud Senator Warren, and wrote her office to share my approval with what she is doing. If you feel the same, I would recommend you do the same

  3. Chapek: “What doesn’t this lady understand? We laid them off and kept my massive bonus BECAUSE MONEY! Somebody send her a free bottle of ketchup. That should smooth things over.”

  4. I appreciate you covering topics like this related to Disney. Your passion and love for all-things Disney, including its workers and their well-being, has caused me to love this site even more than I already did! Thank you 👏

  5. Looks like I will not have to spend thousands of dollars at Disney anymore since I can go to Six Flags and Universal to go on rides. What makes Disney special is being taken away for highly compensated executives and not the things that puts the “magic” in Disney. No sense continuing my DVC or Annual Pass either. Maybe if enough of the Disney base use our spending power the executives will realize their mistakes.

  6. Let’s say your an NBA. The NBA lost a ton of money this year and none of the NBA players are taking payouts but yet the popcorn guys got let go. You can’t cut the talents pay for long or the talent will go else where. The question id say is Bob chapek “talent” worth the pay.

  7. It’s pretty simple actually, the executives are necessary to production and Disney isn’t solely a theme park industry (although even if it were it would still make sense), if they weren’t they wouldn’t be the executives, executives control all aspects of a company from who does what to where when and why, without any leadership there wouldn’t be a Disneyland or Disney pictures, these are usually very highly skilled highly proficient people and the bottom line usually reflects this, losing valuable resources like an executive especially when you have no workers is tantamount to dissolution, so you either pay them and they stay and direct the little that’s going on now among other ventures or you lose them and very likely never see those jobs come back and the park sit in ruin, the same idea goes for companies like starbucks, gamestop, etc.

  8. While I don’t support Warren nor her socialist ideology, I do think she brings up some good points in this case. The Disney company needs to be held accountable to the public outside of its shareholders – to people and fans like you and me!

    However, we must remember that it is NOT up to a Senator nor the government to demand change or “fix” Disney’s problems – that is something Disney will need to look closely within themselves and address. They will ultimately need to do what is right. That is called free enterprise. Chapek is a buffoon, and I hope the next few years will bring about much needed change in terms of Leadership and social stance at a company we all love and hold near to our hearts.

  9. Another question needs to be asked. After laying off thousands of Cast Members at WDW why weeks later are you requiring currently employed Cast Members to work “Mandatory overtime or Mandatory 6 day work weeks” while there are still Cast Members on furlough waiting to be called in to work?

    why was approx 1/3 of the guest first aid cast who are all qualified nurses laid off?
    why are some still furloughed? You would think these would be considered essential in this current pandemic. What is the company paying the park temp screeners from Advent Health?

    I should write her as well.

  10. It disturbs me how much high paid executives make riding on the backs of service workers. Disney executives have compassion for low wages you pay to your service workers that barely get buy and now thousands are reliant on food banks.

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