Advocacy in action

By publishing this blog, The Study Group evokes the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act (Wet bescherming klokkenluiders) of 18 February 2023.

The full Whistleblower Protection Act from the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations is available in Dutch and English.   

No dignity.

No equality.

No inclusivity.

Marie-Anne Leuty (she/her) speaks with ministers, humanitarians and community leaders in The Hague about The Study Group’s legal fight against Adyen NV – and highlights the vital lifeline of having a passionate legal advocate.

By publishing this blog, The Study Group evokes the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act (Wet bescherming klokkenluiders) of 18 February 2023. 

The full act from the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations is available in Dutch and English.

Want to help amplify our story to other media? The Act protects all stakeholders who share it (clause 1a. Duty of confidentiality and data protection).

No dignity.

No equality.

No inclusivity.

All eyes are on The Hague. 

Since 1945, the diplomatic and judicial capital of the Netherlands has been home to the International Courts of Justice. Axis shifting cases are currently in progress or recently ruled, notably South Africa’s genocide case against Israel and Ukraine’s against Russia.

I’m grateful at this time of seismic global change to have had the opportunity to attend a Progress Meeting for Apologies for the History of Slavery in the Dutch political centre. 

Since Willem-Alexander, the Dutch king, apologised for The Netherlands’ role in slavery on 1 July 2023 – the 160th anniversary of its judicial and legal abolition – grassroots community figures, delegates and ministers continue to meet to discuss what steps are being made towards reparations, regarding awareness and healing. Legal and financial reparations are not currently on the table. 

It was an incredible room to take in.

Historic moments were unfolding.

Community leaders from the Netherlands such as The Black Archives, Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP), NiNsee, Keti Koti Zeeland and Controle Alt Delete joined Afro and Indigenous representatives and delegates from across the Caribbean and Suriname.

Meeting and talking with government officials, these community-led institutions do the work daily to address and amplify our shared histories and experiences of extraction to find a way to move society forward. 

From Aruba, Gisele Sint Jago LLB representing The BEULAH Foundation and a member of the newly initiated National Platform for Slavery Heritage Aruba (PNHSA), was one of the delegates. 

It was inspiring to see these connections grow in real time and to connect with these institutions who are raising awareness of the community’s needs.

At the same time, I felt kinda silly. 

With history being made in the room, what was I doing at the Diligentia theatre in The Hague?

What led to this?

Cultural extraction

For the past four months, Obi and I have been fighting a legal battle to be paid for work completed for our former sponsor, Dutch payments platform Adyen NV.

Back in September, our five year assignment agreement was terminated by Adyen NV after I complained multiple times about the unprofessional and unjust treatment we and our team received. 

The [BRAND NAME REDACTED] program was developed by The Study Group to build a bridge between specialised talent from historically excluded backgrounds and the tech space. 

It presented emerging creatives from the community with learning opportunities and access to industry-level productions including a podcast recorded on location in the window of Adyen NV’s headquarters in Amsterdam.

We presented this near final draft of the first episode of a nine-part series to the Vice President of Creative at Adyen NV:

We were requested by the Vice President of Creative to make one change to Adyen NV’s logo in the title sequence then all episodes could be finalised.

Since October 2023, we’ve been fortunate to work with Gisele Sint Jago LLB from The BEULAH Foundation as our Legal Counsel. 

Learning about the case law, customary law, national, European and international principles and Corporate Codes she’s found in connection to our case, we’ve uncovered more and more ways in which Adyen NV’s alleged malpractice is unlawful.

Throughout negotiations, the Euronext listed company has maintained a ‘wrong and strong’ approach, refusing allegedly to acknowledge our rights to equal treatment, fair trade practices and good commercial behaviour from our former Program Partner. 

We were confronted with retroactive changes to the agreement*, undue influence* and non-payment* for work that was completed*. 

*For legal reasons, we formally mention that all accusations are alleged and have not been legally proven. Adyen NV is therefore innocent until proven guilty in the Dutch court of law.

We told Adyen NV during the collaboration, including via a 36 minute voice note composed when I was seven months’ pregnant, that we were uncomfortable with how we were being treated and the apparent lack of transparency around payment. 

We also explained the impact it would have on the community who had hoped to show their best work and gain access to opportunities to grow professionally in the tech space.

The voice note and the concerns raised in it were never addressed by Adyen NV. 

We were informed that the message had been shared with HR. 

Well, I guess HR is HR…

Who would feel safe working at a company with such a performative culture?

Protect your truth

On 7 December 2023, we started to share our story, evoking the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act

Brought into law on 18 February 2023 by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, the Act protects individuals and businesses when talking publicly about corporations and their abusive practices.

As a media company and documentarians, we have a responsibility to our readers and community to inform and educate.

Surviving DEI at Adyen N.V. is a 30,000 word educational case study that details the personal, professional and community impact of working for Adyen NV for 18 months building a DEI program that the fintech asked us to develop for and with them.

It gets real very quickly considering that Adyen NV invited us in on the pretext that they needed our help to connect with professionals from historically excluded backgrounds. 

Their recruiters allegedly hadn’t been able to connect with the community: through the DEI program, we were creating a bridge with the tech space, bringing specialised talent from the community regularly into Adyen NV’s headquarters in Amsterdam.

Our main contact, the Vice President of Creative who’d grown with the company for over ten years, agreed to an interview at the start of the collaboration in March 2022. 

We asked what issues the fintech was facing when it came to diversity and representation. 

It set the context for how we understood Adyen NV’s view and support of the [BRAND NAME REDACTED] program as well as the parameters of our assignment agreement. 

The following interview transcript is part of Chapter 6 of the ‘Surviving DEI at Adyen NV’ case study, ‘Spit and a handshake’:

If you had heard this response from your sponsor, what would your understanding have been?

It seemed Adyen NV was actively seeking to address the lack of representation in its workforce.

It is, after all, a publicly documented issue.

Research by our Legal Counsel brought a Masters thesis from 2020 by Tom van Oord to our attention. 

In it, Adyen NV is recorded as having no DEI policy:

“Adyen N.V. does not have a diversity policy and therefore cannot currently comply with anything. They therefore do not comply with having a policy. They explain that they have no concrete objectives with regard to diversity and tackle this in a broader sense. They do indicate that they will work on such a policy in the future.”

— Tom van Oord, Tilburg University

With a DEI policy seemingly implemented only around a year before we were invited into Adyen NV at the start of 2022, can one be surprised that the company is allegedly so out of touch?

Up to 13 February 2024, the Adyen website gives an 404 error when we try to find more information about Adyen’s DEI policy – the webpage where we believe that our [BRAND NAME REDACTED] program was supposed to have been implemented.


In a final effort to settle things privately, we shared the (unlisted) case study with Adyen NV’s two-tier board of directors, shareholders and staff involved in the program at the end of last year. 

It was received with indifference.

I guess they expect us to fold or disappear.

To say it was a full circle moment to talk to Hugo de Jonge, the Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations, in The Hague about our case is no understatement.

The Whistleblower Protection Act – brought into law by his Ministry – is the single reason that The Study Group hasn’t allegedly been taken to court by Adyen N.V. and DLA Piper Nederland N.V. for sharing our story.

Our truth is all we have. 

Speaking with Hugo de Jonge, Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations

We also had the chance to speak with Franc Weerwind, Minister of Legal Protection, Robbert Dijkgraaf, the Minister of Education, Culture and Media and Alexandra van Huffelen, State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitalisation.

The responses were unanimous.

I’m sorry to hear that this has happened to you.

You’re right to seek justice.

You’re in the right place to find it.

With Gisele Sint Jago LLB and Robbert Dijkgraaf, the Minister of Education, Culture and Media

I was grateful for their support and to share letters with them detailing the legal case against Adyen NV.

The board of directors of the Euronext listed payments platform may still hold dated views when they look down on our community – at least in The Hague, the values of reasonableness and fairness were being applied to our circumstance.

Fortunately, Adyen NV doesn’t represent the perspectives of the whole country. 

The proof was right there in the theatre.

At a conference to discuss progress since the king’s apology, ministers in the political capital of the country were holding space to listen to us.

Asking Adyen NV to address its alleged lack of awareness may be a lost cause. 

That is, fortunately, no longer my concern.

My concern is how do we build from here? 

How do we continue to create and grow safe spaces for folk like us?

What future can we build for our loved ones that empowers rather than extracts?

Talking to ministers, humanitarian lawyers and community leaders served as a reminder that advocacy is a key component to humanity.

With humanitarian lawyer Joancy Breeveld

Advocates and allies

This fight is, and continues to be, gruelling.

The support we’ve received from donors and the community is really felt.

As outsiders, support over the years has come to us from the most unexpected sources and we’re grateful to be seen and have our experience validated by the community.

Thank you to local media like Curacao Dushi who reached out to us when they heard we’d taken Adyen NV to the small claims court (or Kantongerecht in Dutch).

As you can tell from the video, emotions were running high. 

It’s an overwhelming experience having to fight this hard to be seen, heard, recognised and duly compensated for your work. 

There’s a lot on the line.

Several national and international newspaper journalists have informed us that they’re pending to report on this case once we get to the Civil Court. 

Small claims court is all we can afford right now as the alleged actions of Adyen NV have wreaked havoc with our financial situation. 

To support us in our ongoing legal fight, we welcome donations either by GoFundMe (coming soon) or directly to The Study Group.

I wonder if we’re the exception to the rule, or if more small and medium enterprises and businesses have had a similar experience with big corporate companies like Adyen NV?

Heading to the Kantongerecht with Gisele Sint Jago LLB

Is the corporate world a diverse, equitable, inclusive playing field for all who reside and trade in The Netherlands?

Sat in the courtroom with Gisele Sint Jago LLB, a Black jurist, Master’s student, mother and grandmother, I knew we had an advocate who saw the fight, pain and hope that our young family is going through. 

Her counsel has been invaluable. 

Though this has been a dire situation to go through, we see the community value of using this case to educate others – people from historically excluded communities and allies alike – about the statutes and laws that protect our human rights.

Ms Sint Jago’s research and work on the case, combined with evidence gathered during our experience, will continue to be updated, published and used for educational purposes.

Based in Aruba, she travelled to The Netherlands to represent us on behalf of The BEULAH Foundation. 

A non-profit organisation that offers legal support throughout the Dutch Kingdom, The BEULAH Foundation advocates for equal treatment and legal justice for individuals and businesses as well as reparatory justice for descendants of the Dutch slavetrade.

I feel incredibly proud to have such a passionate advocate.

As I looked up, I was pleasantly surprised to see an all female and diverse bench. 

What an important space for such representation of gender and cultural identities to be present. 

Giving me grace for my broken Dutch, the court respectfully listened to our Legal Counsel as she answered the honourable judge’s questions.

More than ever I was aware that this fight is bigger than us.

Justice must be served.

Speaking about the case, Gisele Sint Jago explains that:

“Under Dutch law an agreement is ensued when there’s an offer, an acceptance of the offer and the work starts to get carried out. The minute The Study Group started to work with Adyen NV and they received their first payment, even before a written contract was given, this shows that the agreement came into effect.”

“The Study Group repeatedly reminded Adyen NV of the fact that they were never given a written contract. They only came to understand why Adyen NV chose to work with them in that manner when Adyen NV chose to terminate the agreement after 18 months of collaboration.

“Adyen NV not only knows better, as stated in their 2022 Annual Report and on their Governance website, the fintech is compliant with the Dutch Civil Code, Sustainable Development Goals and Dutch Corporate Governance Code which all have as a basic principle, good commercial conduct.

“But if Adyen NV was in compliance, how do they explain not drawing up a written contract between Adyen NV and The Study Group for 81.3 weeks?”



Except where explicitly agreed otherwise in the Agreement, the Agreement is entered into for an indefinite period, until it is terminated by either party by providing at least two (2) months’ written notice to the other party.


Forwards ever, backwards never

This experience is a big lesson.

It’s sad because we entered into the collaboration with Adyen NV with ambitions of making a bridge that could create opportunities for creatives and professionals like us. 

People whose work deserves to be seen, supported and recognised.

As a majority BIPOC and female team, all of whom have had their own experiences of discrimination at work based on gender, race and culture, we were pushing forward to make an impact.

The community was enthusiastic to be involved and continued working even through the structurally late payments and alleged lack of infrastructure from Adyen NV.

The [BRAND NAME REACTED] program made it easy for the fintech to be seen to be making a difference.

It was meant to show just how progressive and open minded Adyen NV is.

… it would appear the program’s done just that.

As for our plans, we leave it to the small claims court to make their ruling. 

Whatever the outcome, we believe in the power of community and advocacy. 

To have found support from ministers in The Hague, community leaders throughout the Dutch Kingdom, local news outlets… is something we’re grateful for. 

Adyen NV has the resource to remedy this mistake and make things right. 

As Ms Sint Jago summarises:

“If the biggest investment companies in the world are your major shareholders…

“If members of the Dutch Monarchy are your college friends and shareholders…

“If the richest people in the world are your golf buddies and shareholders…

“Then why would you bother listening to a small company based in the Bijlmer, Amsterdam, telling you that you should have done better?”

Thank you 

We’re grateful for the support we’ve received.

To the team and our creditors – thank you for your patience and understanding. I’m sorry that you’ve been impacted by this too.

To the donors, thank you for your support. 

With your continued financial support, David will be able to take Goliath to Civil Court and demand that justice will be served.

To our Legal Counsel, thank you for your dedication, advocacy and care.

Want to support?

Has this blog affected you? Do you have your own experience of corporate abuse?

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Donations big or small are welcome through GoFundMe (coming soon) and direct to The Study Group.

If money’s tight but you still want to support, we appreciate you sharing our story and fundraising efforts.

By publishing this blog, The Study Group evokes the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act (Wet bescherming klokkenluiders) of 18 February 2023. 

The full act from the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations is available online in Dutch and English.

Want to help amplify our story to other media? The Act protects all stakeholders who share it (clause 1a. Duty of confidentiality and data protection).

WORDS: Marie-Anne Leuty and Gisele Sint Jago LLB
IMAGES: The Study Group

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