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Coinbase Lures More Lawyers In-House After Exchange Goes Public

May 24, 2021, 10:46 PM

Coinbase Global Inc. has brought on four new in-house lawyers in addition to Faryar Shirzad, the chief policy officer whose hire the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange announced Monday.

Coinbase, which tapped Fenwick & West to advise on the direct listing that took the company public in April, has recently recruited lawyers from the Biden-Harris transition team, bank holding company Capital One Financial Corp., digital asset trading platform OKCoin USA Inc., and retail giant Walmart Inc.

Within the past few weeks Coinbase added Lianne Labossiere Worden as chief of staff and trust and risk counsel to the general counsel, company spokesman Daniel Harrison told Bloomberg Law. He also confirmed the recent hires of head of intellectual property Ariana Woods and two associate general counsel, Xiaolin “Miranda” Ma and Youli Lee.

All four lawyers join Shirzad, a global co-head of government affairs at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. hired by Coinbase to be its top in-house lobbyist.

Worden, a former Paul Hastings associate, spent the past half-dozen years at Walmart, where she was most recently a senior director of program governance and U.S. ethics and compliance. Woods joins Coinbase after four years in-house at Capital One in McLean, Va., where she spent nearly the past three years as a senior director, associate general counsel, and head of IP.

Lee, a former federal prosecutor who spent part of last year in a cybersecurity counsel role at the Commerce Department before joining the Biden-Harris presidential campaign, joined Coinbase in April as an associate general counsel. National Public Radio reported last year on the experience of Lee and other working mothers trapped at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coinbase, which has said publicly it will permit its employees to work remotely even after Covid-19 lockdowns have been lifted, also added Ma as an associate general counsel this month from her role as head of legal for OKCoin USA. The latter’s parent company hired Deborah Djeu, vice president of regulatory affairs at cryptocurrency custodian BitGo Inc., as its head of regulatory in April.

Djeu, who left Palo Alto, Calif.-based BitGo shortly before it was sold earlier this month to billionaire investor Michael Novogratz in a $1.2 billion cash-and-stock deal, didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether she has replaced Ma as OKCoin’s top lawyer.

Beijing-based OKCoin legal counsel Phoebe Gan and Megan Monroe-Coleman, a former senior director of compliance at Coinbase who OKCoin hired more than a year ago to serve as its global chief compliance officer, also did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Change and Challenges

Coinbase’s new hires mark the latest batch of legal recruits by the newly public company, which was founded in San Francisco but as part of its decentralized corporate structure now has no official headquarters.

Shirzad, Coinbase’s new policy chief, will report to Coinbase’s chief legal officer and corporate secretary, Paul Grewal, hired by the company last year from Facebook Inc. Coinbase disclosed in securities filings this year that Grewal received a total compensation package valued at more than $18 million.

Grewal currently owns roughly $856,000 in Coinbase stock, per Bloomberg Law data.

Shirzad, who started his career as an associate at Robins Kaplan and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, didn’t respond to a request for comment about his decision to leave Goldman for Coinbase.

In two statements posted Monday on his LinkedIn profile, Shirzad said that after 15 years at Goldman he was drawn to Coinbase by the company’s potential to revolutionize financial services.

“Like all great innovations, change comes with challenges,” he wrote. “I’ve spent my career engaging with policymakers around the world, helping to navigate such complex issues. Coinbase has embraced regulation from day one and will continue to do so as it works to bring the promise of crypto to people around the world.”

Public records show that Coinbase paid $20,000 to Steptoe & Johnson during the first quarter of this year for the law firm to lobby on “various issues regarding the taxation of digital assets.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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