J. Christopher Giancarlo, who resigned from the CFTC earlier this year, has landed at the swanky midtown Manhattan offices of leading law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. From his perch as Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from January 2017 to the expiration of his term in June, Giancarlo was a forceful advocate for American cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation.
Giancarlo, 59 and an enthusiastic musician—he played in a bluegrass band with other top Washington functionaries—used the bully pulpit of his agency to press for clarity surrounding the regulatory framework of crypto and other corners of fintech.
He announced his decision to join Willkie Farr & Gallagher as senior counsel on Dec. 2.
He told Modern Consensus: “I chose Willkie because of numerous relationships at the firm stretching back before my time at the CFTC and also because of the firm’s celebrated tradition of hospitality and support for public figures following their public service, starting with its namesake, Wendell Willkie, 1940 Presidential candidate. But mostly, I am joining Willkie because of its cutting-edge expertise and global reach in the areas where I have spent most of my 35-year career: financial markets, emerging technologies and law and public policy.”
On Feb. 8, 2018, he won the hearts and minds of the cryptocurrency industry—and the moniker Crypto Dad—by telling the U.S. Senate, that it cannot “put the technology genie back in the bottle” when it comes to digital currencies.
“Virtual currencies mark a paradigm shift in how we think about payments, traditional financial processes, and engaging in economic activity,” he testified before the Senate Banking Committee. “Ignoring these developments will not make them go away, nor is it a responsible regulatory response.”
His @giancarloMKTS Twitter account gained 40,000 followers within a few days.
Under his leadership, the CFTC did not ignore the scammers or back down on the need for cryptocurrency and blockchain developers to comply with the law. But it took a more collaborative, engaged approach than the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Before joining the CFTC as a commissioner under President Obama, Giancarlo was executive vice president of GFI, the Wall Street derivatives firm that was itself innovating with financial products. He was bumped up to CFTC chairman by President Donald Trump.
Since his departure, Giancarlo has remained active in the digital currency industry. On Oct. 15, he joined another former CFTC colleague, Daniel Gorfine, in calling for the creation of a digital dollar.
He reiterated that call in an email announcing his decision to join Willkie Farr & Gallagher, promising, “I will continue to advocate development of a blockchain-based digital dollar and a new American lending benchmark to replace LIBOR derived from a robust market for unsecured institutional lending.”
That Ethereum-based LIBOR replacement is being built by of the American Financial Exchange, whose board Giancarlo has joined. In September he also accepted a seat on the advisory board of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a blockchain advocacy group.
“The Chamber is at the epicenter of this emerging field of technology that can only be described as a movement,” Giancarlo said at the time. “It is my hope that together we can streamline and modernize the regulatory environment and encourage further blockchain innovation.”
And he’s not finished.
“I expect soon to announce additional leadership roles in enterprises engaged in financial trading markets and digital commerce,” Giancarlo concluded in his email.