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Plaid Picks Up Former CFPB Legal Chief as New Top Lawyer (1)

Aug. 20, 2020, 11:01 AM; Updated: Aug. 20, 2020, 3:39 PM

Plaid Inc., a fintech company poised to be absorbed by Visa Inc., has hired former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau general counsel Meredith Fuchs to serve as its legal chief.

Fuchs spent the past four-and-a-half years as chief regulatory counsel at Capital One Financial Inc. She joins Plaid almost a year after its former top lawyer Benjamin Lee left the company to become general counsel at Reddit Inc.

Fintech companies like Plaid are coping with questions about their data gathering practices that also affect consumers and larger financial services companies, many of whom have been rushing into the fast-growing space.

“Financial services are in the midst of a sea change, with every bank evolving rapidly to be digital-first,” said a statement from Plaid co-founder and CEO Zachary Perret, who is poised to become another young Silicon Valley tycoon once the company’s $5.3 billion sale to Visa closes later this year.

Perret praised Fuchs for her “impressive track record in financial services,” noting both her CFPB and traditional banking experience will help Plaid navigate new regulatory waters.

Fuchs, who reports to Perret, said in an interview that digital technology and applications are rapidly transforming the financial services industry.

“Innovation is going to bring financial services to all people—we’re trying to make financial life better for consumers,” said Fuchs, who began working at Plaid two weeks ago from her home in Bethesda, Md.

When the Covid-19 pandemic eases she expects to spend time in Plaid’s San Francisco headquarters. Fuchs has met with Visa’s general counsel Kelly Mahon Tullier, but said Plaid will remain independently operated to focus on developing fintech products once that deal is finalized.

Capital One said in a statement that “we are grateful for Meredith’s many contributions over the years and we are thrilled she has been offered a well-deserved general counsel role within the Visa family.”

Regulatory Wrangling

Plaid makes software used by apps like Square Inc., Stripe Inc., and Venmo Inc. that connects users to the traditional banking system.

Plaid has been sued for collecting user data without consent, although the company has called those allegations “baseless.” Fuchs declined to discuss pending litigation.

While Plaid has not yet developed a roster of preferred providers for legal services—Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is counseling Plaid on its sale to Visa—Fuchs said she’ll be looking for firms that “want to grow with us” and “understand our culture and strategy.”

Fuchs, who was a litigation partner at Wiley Rein prior to becoming one of the first lawyers at the CFPB when it was formed in 2011, reunites at Plaid with a few former colleagues at the bureau, where she also once served as acting deputy director.

Ex-CFPB lawyers John Pitts, Amy Radon, and Brandis Anderson have joined Plaid within the past three years in policy and regulatory roles. Earlier this year the company hired Keesal, Young & Logan partner Elyse Whitehead as an employment and litigation counsel in San Francisco and added Stash Financial Inc. associate general counsel Sagar Thakur as a product counsel in New York.

Fuchs said with the CFPB doing rulemaking that could give consumers ownership and control over their own financial data, Plaid expects to be involved in the process and will likely ramp up its hiring of data privacy lawyers and other experts, as well as individuals to “interface” with the big banks.

At least two lawyers have left Plaid since the Visa deal was announced in January.

Karishma Kadian, a corporate counsel at Plaid who joined the company through its $200 million acquisition last year of fintech rival Quovo Inc., departed in April to become general counsel at online gift card marketplace Prizeout Inc. Stephen Barrows, a payments and regulatory counsel hired from Stripe last year, joined energy startup Prometheus Fuels Inc. as general counsel in June.

Lydia Beyoud contributed to this report.

(Adds comment from Capital One in ninth paragraph and detail on CFPB colleagues in 14th 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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