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Crypto Exchange FalconX Hires BitGo Lawyer as First Legal Chief

July 1, 2021, 7:34 PM

FalconX Ltd., a cryptocurrency trading platform backed by some of the biggest names in finance, hired its first-ever general counsel this month in James Morgan.

Austin Reid, chief of staff for San Mateo, Calif.-based FalconX, confirmed Morgan’s hire to Bloomberg Law.

Morgan spent the past two years as general counsel for BitGo Inc., a cryptocurrency custodian that in May agreed to sell itself to financier Michael Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd.

Morgan joins a digital asset platform that was valued at $675 million in March after closing on a $50 million investment from Tiger Global Management LLC and B Capital Group Management LP. Bloomberg News reported in December that FalconX had secured another investment from American Express Co.’s venture arm, although the credit card company declined to disclose the size of its stake.

Reid said Morgan is FalconX’s first “formal general counsel,” adding that the company works with several legal and consulting firms in the U.S. and abroad who have advised on legal and compliance matters. Morgan didn’t respond to a request for comment about his new role.

Morgan spent more than four years as general counsel for Genesis Global Trading Inc. and SecondMarket Inc. prior to joining Palo Alto, Calif.-based BitGo in May 2019. Both broker-dealers were early movers in the digital asset space, and Morgan helped create the legal and regulatory framework for Genesis to become the first New York-based trading firm to have a cryptocurrency trading operation.

Before that Morgan worked at Miami International Holdings Inc. and NYSE Euronext, where he handled market compliance and regulatory matters for the stock exchange operators. His LinkedIn profile indicates that Morgan began his career doing salary arbitration work in Major League Baseball, a role that saw him assist the general counsel for various teams, including helping the Washington Nationals defeat former player Alfonso Soriano’s then-record $12 million arbitration request in 2006.

Morgan’s move follows that of Robert Rutherford, a former vice president of global operations at BitGo who joined FalconX in the same capacity in February. BitGo’s subsequent $1.2 billion cash-and-stock sale to Galaxy Digital led to roles for a handful of large law firms, including Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, which is advising BitGo. The transaction is set to close later this year.

BitGo’s Hiring Binge

Despite Morgan’s departure, BitGo spokeswoman Michelle Marin said the company has named an interim general counsel in Richard Corcoran, while also hiring several other lawyers for key in-house roles.

BitGo announced May 18 its addition of Cassandra “Cassie” Lentchner, a senior counsel for cybersecurity and regulatory compliance at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, to be COO for its trust companies. Lentchner, a former executive director at Morgan Stanley and UBS AG, also previously served as a deputy superintendent of compliance for the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Marie Marx, a regulatory attorney specializing in virtual currency licensees for New York’s DFS, has also moved to BitGo, Marin said. Other lawyers to have recently joined the company include associate general counsel Lisa LeFever and Matthew Kita, who came aboard in March from their in-house roles at LGO Group and Fidelity National Information Services Inc., respectively.

In January, BitGo announced its addition of chief compliance officer Jeffrey Horowitz, a non-lawyer who had spent the past two-and-a-half years in the same role at Coinbase Global Inc., which he left last year.

BitGo subsequently named Michelle Neufeld its deputy compliance chief and Bank Secrecy Act officer. The attorney and anti-money laundering expert was previously head of compliance and operational risk for Wells Fargo & Co.’s financial institutions group.

Shahla Ali, hired by BitGo in 2018 as chief legal and compliance officer, is no longer with the company, Marin said. Ali didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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