By Jeff John Roberts
September 19, 2018

Coinbase, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S., announced on Wednesday that it’s hired Brian Brooks to be its top lawyer. Brooks comes from mortgage giant Fannie Mae, where he served as General Counsel and Executive Vice-President.

While Brook’s duties at Fannie Mae had nothing to do with cryptocurrency, his former post involved navigating a thicket of financial and regulatory issues—something that will serve him in good stead at Coinbase, which has its hands full dealing with agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Commodities and Futures Trading Commission as part of its mission to bring cryptocurrency into the mainstream.

“His arrival is part of our effort to expand our legal, compliance and government affairs capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole,” said Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong in a blog post announcing the hire.

The job of general counsel is becoming increasingly important at cryptocurrency companies, which are contending not only with government investigations and compliance, but also a pile of civil class action suits and law enforcement requests.

Coinbase’s hiring of Brooks comes two weeks after Ripple, another prominent crypto company, confirmed its general counsel is leaving. (Ripple hasn’t named a replacement but has retained Mary Jo White, a former Chair of the SEC and a heavyweight in legal circles).

Brooks, who was also a managing partner at the white-shoe law firm O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., will succeed Mike Lempres, who will stay on to supervise Coinbase’s lobbying efforts.

The hiring of Brooks comes a day after Coinbase lured LinkedIn’s head of data, Michael Li, to be its head of data. The company has also made a series of other high profile hires in the last year, including Tina Bhatnagar, who used to run customer service at Twitter, and Emilie Choi, who led M&A at LinkedIn.

(To read more about Brian Brooks, his executive profile at Fannie Mae was still up as of Wednesday afternoon).

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Mary Jo White’s position at the SEC.

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