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Digital Asset Platform GSR Taps Hedge Fund for First Legal Chief

June 17, 2021, 10:01 AM

GSR Markets Ltd. has become the latest digital asset trading outfit to recruit a top in-house lawyer from the traditional financial services space.

Eva Sanchez, a managing director, general counsel, and head of international compliance at investment firm AQR Capital Management LLC, has joined London-based GSR as its first-ever chief legal officer.

Sanchez said she was attracted to GSR by the “vision” of its management team, as well as the “eye-watering pace” at which the digital asset industry is expanding and the ability it has to transform the future of financial services.

GSR’s hire of Sanchez comes as asset managers, hedge funds, and other investors become more accepting of cryptocurrencies and other forms of decentralized finance, which has policy makers and regulators around the world examining various frameworks for oversight of the space.

GSR, founded in 2013, has recently hired other executives from leading financial institutions. Bloomberg News recently reported on how GSR views the evolution of the commodities market to crypto’s current state.

Creating a regulatory structure that makes sense for all stakeholders will be critical in advancing the industry forward, Sanchez said.

“While the activities of retail traders have garnered much of the headlines in recent years, many institutions have been quietly exploring and developing some strong investment use cases,” she said. “It follows that a sound framework is required to help guide and shape the industry and ensure orderly and transparent markets.”

Sanchez, a former Clifford Chance associate, will work out of GSR’s London headquarters. The company also has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Zug, Switzerland. Sanchez said her immediate focus will be on regulatory strategy and building out GSR’s in-house staff.

One individual is already lined up in Eugene Ferrara, a non-lawyer former compliance executive at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley in New York who has been hired as GSR’s chief compliance officer.

“Eva and Eugene are highly respected in the industry and we are excited to bring them onboard and have them help GSR lead its efforts to further instill the controls, structure, and regulatory rigor that will drive our industry forward,” said a statement from GSR co-founder and ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. energy trader Cristian Gil.

Sanchez comes to GSR after nearly three years in-house at AQR, a Greenwich, Conn.-based investment manager that has provided reduced returns to investors in recent years.

William Fenrich, AQR’s former legal chief, last year became general counsel at Rockefeller Capital Management LP, the family office of the Rockefeller family. AQR’s current legal and compliance chief is Herbert “H.J.” Willcox.

At AQR, Sanchez oversaw legal and compliance for the firm’s international business in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific regions during a time of significant change for the investment management industry, which she said had to cope with Brexit and its “implications on key issues such as distribution and delegation.”

While the increased value of some cryptocurrencies has led to litigation involving law firms that accepted digital assets as payment for legal services, Sanchez demurred when asked which firms are advising GSR and whether the company has a policy about paying its external vendors in crypto. GSR has previously found itself in litigation with at least one firm over a bitcoin-related payment.

“Given the pace at which both the law and business is evolving I absolutely expect to forge strong relationships with some of them,” said Sanchez, adding she knows how to make in-house lawyers and their outside counterparts work well together. “I’m a firm believer in investing time and effort to enable outside lawyers to understand your business in order to get the best and, over time, most cost-effective advice.”

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;
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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