Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase hires chief legal officer from Fannie Mae

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Coinbase has hired finance executive Brian Brooks as chief legal officer, it said on Wednesday, as the cryptocurrency exchange grows its compliance and government affairs capabilities amid intensifying regulatory scrutiny of the nascent market.

Brooks was most recently executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Fannie Mae, the U.S. mortgage finance company. In that role he led the company’s legal department and government relations group, and was a senior advisor to the CEO and board of directors, said Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges based in the United States.

“His arrival is part of our effort to expand our legal, compliance and government affairs capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole,” Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said in a blogpost.

Mike Lempres, who was previously chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase, will now focus on growing the company’s government affairs program, Coinbase said.

The appointment comes as regulators and governments start ramping up their focus on cryptocurrency markets, which have been the subject of growing investor interest over the past 18 months.

On Tuesday the New York Attorney General’s office issued a report stating that several cryptocurrency exchanges are plagued by poor market surveillance, pervasive conflicts of interest and lack of sufficient customer protections.

In April the attorney general office had asked 13 platforms, including Coinbase, to voluntarily share information about their practices.

The report noted that some platforms engage in proprietary trading on their own venues, which it said could create potential conflicts of interest. Coinbase disclosed to the attorney general’s office that almost 20 percent of executed volume on its platform was attributable to its own trading.

Coinbase did not immediately comment on the report.

The hire announced Wednesday, follows appointments of other former finance executives to senior compliance posts at the startup. In July Coinbase hired a former Pershing LLC executive as chief compliance officer.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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