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Coinbase’s Legal Hiring Spree Continues Despite Defections

Oct. 30, 2020, 5:52 PM

Coinbase Inc., a fast-growing cryptocurrency exchange eyeing a potential initial public offering, has made another high-profile legal recruit.

Milana McCullagh, who spent the past 13 years in-house at Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC, was announced Friday by Coinbase as its new deputy general counsel for product and commercial legal.

Coinbase touted McCullagh’s previous experience working with product, engineering, and business teams behind disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, Google Maps, and Google Search.

Coinbase disclosed McCullagh’s hire along with its addition of deputy general counsel for litigation Katherine Minarik, who recently came aboard after serving as Americas legal chief at Dyson Ltd.

The two new recruits are the latest in a string of legal and compliance additions by the San Francisco-based company, which in July brought on former Facebook Inc. deputy general counsel Paul Grewal as its new chief legal officer. Grewal, McCullagh, and Minarik are part of at least a dozen lawyers added by Coinbase so far in 2020, following another legal hiring binge last year.

A company spokeswoman confirmed those numbers, and said in a statement to Bloomberg Law that “a strong and diverse legal and compliance team is also a key part of achieving our priority of Coinbase to be the most trusted.”

The new recruits by Coinbase, which has reportedly held talks with law firms and investment banks about going public, come even as a controversial new mandate banning political activism at work has resulted in roughly 60 employees taking exit packages offered by the company.

Coinbase chief compliance officer Jeff Horowitz is leaving, although his departure is reportedly not due to the politics ban. Coinbase associate general counsel for regulatory Hailey Lennon also left the company in October to join the law firm Anderson Kill as a partner specializing in technology, media, and distributed systems.

Lennon didn’t respond to a request for comment about the circumstances surrounding her exit. Coinbase declined to discuss individual departures.

Coinbase currently lists on its website openings for at least 10 legal and compliance positions in Berlin, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Remote work options are also available.

A stablecoin backed by Coinbase reached $1 billion in market capitalization in July, a month after the company was advised by Fenwick & West on its acquisition of Tagomi Holdings Inc., a cryptocurrency brokerage startup backed by Peter Thiel. That deal saw Tagomi general counsel Dhawal Sharma join Coinbase as an associate general counsel and Tagomi deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer Alan Reed come aboard as a senior manager for financial institutions.

Legal Ballast

Other recent recruits include Carly Nuzbach Lowery, a former senior legal counsel at Uber Technologies Inc. in London, where she joined Coinbase this month as an associate general counsel.

Jade Clemons, a former attorney with Fenwick’s flexible working arm, joined Coinbase in September as a commercial counsel. Former Fenwick associates Douglas Sharp and Lisa Richards were hired by the company over the summer in corporate counsel roles.

Janice Payne, head of supervisory affairs at CLS Group Holdings AG, a financial institution that serves the foreign exchange market, was hired by Coinbase in August as director of regulatory compliance.

Coinbase landed Valerie-Leila Jaber, a former managing director for financial crime compliance at Credit Suisse AG, in June as global head of anti-money laundering. Sonia Siddiqui, a lawyer and manager of privacy and cybersecurity at accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, joined that month as privacy lead.

The company has also sought to bring on lawyers with regulatory ties, picking up chief of staff and counsel for trust and risk Hermine Wong in February after she served as special counsel in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s offices of structured disclosure and chief counsel.

Several former Coinbase lawyers are now in regulatory positions.

Former legal chief Brian Brooks currently leads the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where he is reshaping U.S. banking laws. Former product counsel Andrew Ridenour is now senior counsel to the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, while the director of the CFTC’s division of market oversight is Dorothy DeWitt, a former divisional general counsel at Coinbase.

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; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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