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Crypto Firms Grow Legal Ranks With Dyson, Goldman Recruits (2)

Oct. 8, 2020, 11:02 AM; Updated: Oct. 8, 2020, 6:40 PM

Two cryptocurrency companies have hired a pair of in-house lawyers as federal regulators mull new guidance on digital assets.

Coinbase Inc. has bolstered its legal team ahead of a potential public listing by bringing on deputy general counsel Katherine Minarik from Dyson Ltd. She will work with Coinbase’s new chief legal officer Paul Grewal, hired in July from Facebook Inc.

Minarik, who announced her new job this week on LinkedIn, spent the past year as general counsel for the Americas at the U.K.-based home appliance giant. She has also had previous stops at e-commerce company Cleverbridge AG and Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, a litigation shop spun off in 1993 from Kirkland & Ellis.

O(1) Labs Operating Corp., the parent company for blockchain technology Mina, announced Thursday it hired Sang Joon Kim as general counsel. Kim is a former associate at Kirkland & Ellis and Dechert who spent nearly three years as an assistant general counsel in the asset management division at the Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Mina, formerly known as the Coda Protocol, relaunched in September to provide a more accessible platform for developers building decentralized applications. In a statement, Kim said his new employer “significantly lowers the cost of entry to participate in a democratic and consensus-based network,” a widely held sentiment among advocates for a crypto-friendly financial future.

O(1) Labs, which has received financing from a number of investors, including Coinbase’s venture arm, will see Kim advise on shifting regulations pertaining to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, some of which have received good news from financial regulators.

The New Jersey-based Kim joins O(1) Labs after serving as general counsel for Terraform Labs Inc., a blockchain technology company focused on algorithmic stablecoins whose primary operations are in Asia. Prior to joining Terraform in 2019, Kim was an associate general counsel at private equity firm Lightyear Capital LLC.

Coinbase Connections

Coinbase has put the Chicago-based Minarik in charge of litigation and investigations.

Minarik wrote on her LinkedIn profile that she’s looking forward to working with Grewal in trying to “change the world.”

Grewal replaced former legal chief Brian Brooks, who is now acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Minarik is a longtime supporter of women in Big Law, having earlier this year become a member of the board for ChIPs Network Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women in technology, law, and policy leadership positions.

Blockchain has become one of the more inclusive fields for women in law and technology.

Coinbase announced Aug. 25 its promotion of international general counsel Marcus Hughes to general manager for Europe, where he heads the company’s business operations. Hughes joined Coinbase in 2018 after a decade at Morgan Stanley.

More In-House Hires

A spate of legal recruits have signaled a hot market for cryptocurrency lawyers.

Keith Gralitzer, a co-founder and managing director at legal recruiter Momentum Search Group LLC, said he’s seen an increase in demand this year for job candidates with financial regulation and compliance experience in the digital asset space.

Some notable appointments as of late include:

  • Gemini Trust Co. LLC, a cryptocurrency exchange backed by the Winklevoss twins, announced Thursday its addition of Andrew Meehan as its Singapore-based chief compliance officer for Asia. Meehan spent the past five years as an executive director and financial crimes counsel at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. He previously was a regional head of sanctions and anti-corruption at Credit Suisse AG and worked at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Kobre & Kim. Gemini hired another ex-Morgan Stanley lawyer as its global compliance chief last year.
  • Amber Group, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency financial services provider, announced Sept. 2 its hire of Kane Guo as chief compliance officer. Guo spent the past year as head of legal and compliance at GaoTeng Global Asset Management Ltd., an asset management firm backed by Chinese technology giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and buyout firm Hillhouse Capital Management LP.
  • Prime Trust LLC, a Summerlin, Nev.-based cryptocurrency custodian and blockchain trust company, touted Aug. 11 its addition of several executives, including general counsel George Georgiades. The former of counsel at New York’s Ellenoff Grossman & Schole has previously worked in-house at financial services firms Garrison Investment Group LP and Maxim Group LLC.
  • Dalpha Capital Management LLC, a Winnetka, Ill.-based investment firm specializing in digital asset strategies, brought on Winston & Strawn investment management of counsel Joseph Nesler in August as general counsel and chief compliance officer. Nesler, a former partner at Sidley Austin and Schiff Hardin, previously spent a decade as general counsel and compliance chief for Chicago-based alternative asset manager Grosvenor Capital Management LP.
  • CrossTower Inc. raised $6 million in a seed funding round in June, a month after the Jersey City, N.J.-based cryptocurrency trading platform went live. CrossTower’s president and co-founder is Kristin Boggiano, a former Schulte Roth & Zabel special counsel who formed the company after serving as chief strategy and legal officer at cryptocurrency exchange software provider AlphaPoint Corp.
  • The Association for Digital Asset Markets, a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group for the blockchain industry, announced May 21 its hire of CEO Jeffrey Blockinger, a former investment funds lawyer at Crowell & Moring, Schulte Roth, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Blockinger previously spent a decade as legal chief at hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Inc.

Additional reporting by Ruiqi Chen.

(Clarifies that Mina is a technology owned by O(1) Labs in fourth and fifth paragraphs.)

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

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