- Former Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks will become chief executive of crypto exchange Binance.US on May 1, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
- Brooks’s new role pits him against Coinbase, a company he served as chief legal officer from 2018 to 2020. Brooks told the Journal he intends to cement Binance.US’s commitment to regulatory compliance and make the exchange a robust competitor. "I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t have a strong commitment from the board to lead a strong compliance program," he said.
- Since leaving the top role at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in January, Brooks has served as an independent director at Spring Labs, where he also was a founding adviser from 2018 to 2020.
Brooks has long positioned himself as a crypto advocate. During his tenure, the OCC took several steps to include crypto in the national banking conversation and set boundaries for its use. The regulator issued guidance in July specifying that national banks could provide cryptocurrency custody services and hold unique cryptographic "keys" associated with cryptocurrency on behalf of customers. An OCC interpretive letter in January clarified that banks can use stablecoins to facilitate payment transactions for customers on an independent node verification network.
Brooks also advocated for a national charter for payments companies, claiming it was the answer to the ongoing unbundling of financial services. He also vowed to continue the legal fight over the agency's fintech charter, a proposal the OCC introduced in 2016, under former Comptroller Thomas Curry.
During his last week in office, Brooks gave cryptocurrency platform Anchorage conditional approval for a national trust bank charter — a first in the crypto sphere. A second crypto firm, Protego Trust, followed in February.
Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume, launched a U.S. arm in 2019. But the company’s main exchange, initially based in China, blocks Americans in an effort to stay on the right side of regulators.
Nonetheless, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is investigating Binance to see whether it let U.S. residents buy and sell derivatives, Bloomberg reported last month.
Hiring an executive with intimate knowledge of U.S. regulations presumably would help the exchange expand its stateside operations without raising red flags.
Binance has already hired former Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, who also served as U.S. ambassador to China from 2014 to 2017, as a policy adviser. Baucus told Bloomberg last month the exchange was considering registering with the CFTC.
Other former regulators have landed at crypto firms after their stints in Washington. Former CFTC Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo, lovingly dubbed "Crypto Dad" during his time in office, joined the board of cryptocurrency lender BlockFi, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
Coinbase, meanwhile, last month hired Brett Redfearn to run its capital-markets group. Redfearn served until December as director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of trading and markets.
Coinbase last week became the first crypto firm to list on the Nasdaq market, netting an $85.8 billion valuation.