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Coinbase Taps Facebook Deputy General Counsel as New Legal Chief (1)

July 8, 2020, 7:57 PMUpdated: July 8, 2020, 9:25 PM

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Inc. raided Facebook Inc. for one of its top in-house lawyers, hiring Paul Grewal to serve as its new chief legal officer.

Grewal, a former federal magistrate judge, spent the past four years as deputy general counsel and vice president at Facebook, where he oversaw regulatory affairs, litigation, and commercial matters for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media giant.

“Paul’s mix of experience in private practice, as a federal judge, and as a leading in-house lawyer makes him a phenomenal addition to Coinbase,” the company said in a press release announcing his hire.

At Coinbase, which has been busy in recent months expanding its in-house legal operations, Grewal takes over from Brian Brooks, who in March was appointed first deputy comptroller at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The move saw Brooks liquidate $4.6 million in Coinbase stock options.

In May, Brooks effectively became Wall Street’s top watchdog after he was named acting head of the OCC, a U.S. banking regulator.

Grewal now joins Coinbase at a time when the company and other competitors in the cryptocurrency space are facing increased regulatory scrutiny over their financial services.

Bloomberg News reported last week that USDC, a cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar and backed by Coinbase and Circle Internet Financial Ltd., had reached a market capitalization of $1 billion.

“I came to understand the vision for an open financial system for the world,” Grewal said in a statement issued by Coinbase about his decision to join the company. “And I got to see just how talented and committed the entire Coinbase team is in making that vision a reality.”

Grewal wasn’t immediately available to discuss his new role at Coinbase.

In May, Coinbase turned to Fenwick & West, a law firm with a longtime client relationship with Facebook, to advise on its acquisition for an undisclosed sum of Tagomi Systems Inc., a cryptocurrency brokerage startup backed by billionaire and former Big Law associate Peter Thiel. Latham & Watkins represented Jersey City, N.J.-based Tagomi on that transaction.

That same month the Libra Association, a digital currency group whose members include Facebook, hired Robert Werner to serve as its first-ever general counsel.

(Adds final three paragraphs noting Grewal’s unavailability for comment and recent developments in the crypto space.)

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

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

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