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Libra Association Lands Ex-Homeland Security General Counsel (1)

Aug. 26, 2020, 6:25 PM; Updated: Aug. 26, 2020, 7:42 PM

For the second time in three months, digital currency group the Libra Association has a new top lawyer.

Stevan Bunnell, a former general counsel at the Homeland Security Department, recently joined Libra as chief legal officer. Bunnell since 2017 has co-chaired the data privacy and security practice at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington.

The new in-house position was noted by Bunnell on his LinkedIn profile. Robert Werner, hired by Libra as its first-ever general counsel in May, confirmed to Bloomberg Law that Bunnell is taking over his job.

“Steve is an outstanding lawyer and a great guy,” Werner said. “I decided that the role wasn’t the right fit for me.”

Werner explained that being general counsel for Libra would’ve required he give up his spot on the board of directors for Deutsche Bank Trust Co. and Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas, seats he’s “very much enjoyed over the past year.”

Libra’s evolving membership includes Facebook Inc., Lyft Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., and more than 20 other companies seeking to create a cryptocurrency payments network to win over skeptical lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and Europe. Libra has touted its ability to deploy new technologies to help fight financial crime.

Bunnell, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his new role at Libra, served as managing partner of O’Melveny’s Washington office prior to joining Homeland Security in 2013.

The firm advised a group of eight cryptocurrency companies last year on the creation of the Crypto Rating Council, an association that seeks to bolster digital currency compliance with U.S. securities laws.

“We are grateful to Steve for his many contributions to O’Melveny over the years—he will always be part of the O’Melveny community,” Bradley Butwin, re-elected earlier this year as chair of the firm, said in statement provided by email. “We wish him every success in his new and exciting role.”

Stuart Levey, a former top Treasury Department official-turned-general counsel at HSBC Holdings PLC tapped earlier this year to become Libra’s CEO, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the organization’s in-house legal change involving Bunnell and Werner. Nor did Libra itself.

Deutsche Bank is also adding Werner to the board of its intermediate holding company in the U.S., he said. The German financial services giant tapped longtime in-house lawyer Karen Kuder in May to serve as its new global legal head, replacing former group general counsel Florian Drinhausen.

(Adds comment from O'Melveny in the ninth paragraph.)

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

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