Coinbase Brian Armstrong Brian Brooks
People,  Regulation,  United States

Coinbase loses chief legal officer to U.S. Treasury

Brian Brooks is leaving the cryptocurrency exchange to become COO of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates and oversees banks in the U.S.

Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Brian Brooks has been appointed chief operating officer of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Treasury Department announced on March 16. Brooks, who will also serve as first deputy comptroller, starts April 1.

The OCC is a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department that charters, regulates, and supervises banks and savings associations in the United States.

“Brian Brooks is a strong leader with extensive experience in the financial services sector,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “I look forward to working with him to ensure the stability of our financial system and its ability to foster greater economic growth for the benefit of all Americans.”

New models needed

In a March 2019 podcast, Brooks told financial regulatory consultant Jo Ann Barefoot that cryptocurrency can’t be regulated like anything has been regulated in the past and that new models are needed.

In it, he said that while the Treasury Department “is not the regulator of any of this, [it] has the policy-setting and agenda-setting authority for the administration, and I think it’s quite likely that they will set a course on that.”

Now he’s in a position to help create that guidance. That fits the way he described his career to Barefoot. 

“I’ve taken a journey from law and traditional banking through fintech and all the way to cryptocurrency. Some people look back on that and ask me, ‘How do you connect those dots,’” he said. “To me, they’re all very logical. It’s a series of innovating and making things more efficient, making things more accessible and more open. That’s our mission at Coinbase… to create an open financial system. 

Innovation is what the OCC wants, said Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, in the release.

“Brian brings an extensive career of legal, banking, and financial innovation expertise to the agency,” Otting said. “He is a visionary thinker with a passion for service and a deep understanding of how the financial services industry supports our nation’s prosperity.”

The road to D.C.

Brooks worked with Otting and Mnuchin when he was OneWest Bank Vice Chairman from 2011 to 2014.

Previously, he was executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Fannie Mae.

He has held his post at Coinbase since September 2018. While at Coinbase, Brooks served on the board of Avant Inc., a marketplace lending and technology platform company.

Brooks has also chaired O’Melveny & Myers’s 40-lawyer national Financial Services Practice.

While there, he represented former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and other clients before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission which was established by Congress to look into the causes of the 2008 meltdown.

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Ted Knutson is a veteran Washington financial reporter. Knutson does not own any cryptocurrencies.