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Libra Association Hires Treasury, HSBC Vet as First Legal Chief (1)

May 19, 2020, 1:00 PM; Updated: May 19, 2020, 3:05 PM

The Libra Association, a digital currency group that includes Facebook Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., and 24 other members, shored up its executive team Tuesday by hiring Robert Werner as its first-ever general counsel.

Werner, a former head of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, reunites at Libra with Stuart Levey, whose hire as CEO was unveiled by the Geneva, Switzerland-based organization earlier this month.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Libra Association as we work to transform the global payments landscape to empower billions of people,” Werner said in a statement announcing his hire. “I have dedicated my career to combating financial crime and helping complex organizations achieve regulatory compliance, both in government and in the private sector.”

The cryptocurrency project has been rebuilding its membership following a raft of defections as it seeks payment licenses amid skepticism from regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe. In January, Libra touted its ability to deploy technologies to help fight financial crimes in the blockchain space.

Levey and Werner will both be based in Libra’s Washington office. The two lawyers have a history together. They both worked alongside one another at Treasury, where Levey spent nearly seven years, most recently as an undersecretary for terrorism and financial prior to joining HSBC Holdings plc as its chief legal officer in January 2012.

At HSBC, which Levey will leave this summer to join Libra, he hired Werner to head the global banking giant’s financial crime compliance unit in 2012. Werner left HSBC’s London headquarters at the end of 2016 to return to the U.S., where in recent years he’s served as a consultant to risk rating agency Sigma Ratings Inc. and ran his own consulting firm from his home in Hillsdale, N.Y.

Before joining HSBC, Werner spent more than three years in-house at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he was a managing director and global co-head of financial crime. He previously held senior legal and compliance roles at Merrill Lynch and The Phoenix Cos., while briefly serving as a partner at a predecessor to now-defunct law firm Bingham McCutchen.

Alpaca Farm

Werner is currently working from Hillsdale, N.Y., where he and his wife, Suzanne Heggie Werner, a former lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency, bought the Green River Hollow Farm several years ago.

The couple raise alpacas on the 80-acre farm near the Massachusetts border and the Berkshires and sell wool from the animals at Fluff Alpaca, a store they own in Hudson, N.Y.

In a brief email exchange with Bloomberg Law, Werner said that since the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. two months ago, other family members have joined him and his wife in Hillsdale.

“Little did we know that our small farm would become a family hub in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Green River Hollow Consulting LLC is also the name of the consulting firm that Werner has run from Hillsdale since early 2017. He told Bloomberg Law he plans to go back-and-forth between Hillsdale and Washington when working at Libra.

(Adds detail on Werner's work location.)

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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