NEW YORK (Reuters) – By Jessica DiNapoli – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren slammed Walt Disney Co’s move to lay off 28,000 workers while making shareholder payouts in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, demanding more information from company executives on the measures.Abigail Disney, the grand-daughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, has also criticized the company for how it has handled the pandemic.
Warren described Disney’s decision to pay dividends and buy back stock before the pandemic as “short-sighted,” because it reduced the capital the company could have used to weather the downturn.
“I would like to know whether Disney’s financial decisions have impacted the company’s decision to lay off workers,” Warren wrote. “It appears that – prior to, and during the pandemic – Disney took good care of its top executives and shareholders – and now is hanging its front-line workers out to dry.”
Disney did not immediately provide a comment. Warren said she appreciated that Disney has continued to provide healthcare benefits to furloughed workers for the last six months.
Activist investor Daniel Loeb of hedge fund Third Point said the company should permanently end its dividend, after Disney suspended it in May, and invest in streaming programming instead.
Roughly two-thirds of the 28,000 workers Disney said last month it was laying off were part-time. Disneyland, the company’s theme park in California, remains shut due to the pandemic.
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