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Coinbase hires prominent former judge as its top lawyer

July 8, 2020, 8:23 PM UTC

The cryptocurrency giant Coinbase announced on Wednesday that it has brought on Paul Grewal as its chief legal officer. The move is significant because Grewal is a prominent figure in Silicon Valley and carries a lot of weight in a legal circles.

A former patent lawyer, Grewal worked as a U.S. Magistrate judge for six years, and presided over high profile cases between Apple and Samsung, and Google and Oracle. In 2016, he left the bench—an unusual move given the prestige and job security of a federal judgeship—to join Facebook.

At Coinbase, Grewal will preside over the company’s global legal operations. The task will not be an easy one given the messy legal and regulatory environment surrounding cryptocurrency—an environment that has seen Coinbase mired in IRS investigations and class action lawsuits.

Grewal doesn’t have a background in cryptocurrency, but Coinbase appears to believe his familiarity with complicated tech issues will make him suitable for the job.

“Paul will also lead the team’s continuing work to partner with financial services regulators, contribute to the development and rollout of innovative, regulated products and services, and support the company’s global growth and regulatory strategy,” Coinbase said in a blog post.

Grewal replaces Brian Brooks as Chief Legal Officer. Brooks was a senior executive at Fannie Mae who joined Coinbase in 2018 but then left in May to become acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency—the country’s top banking regulator.

Grewal’s hires also comes as Coinbase and other cryptocurrency companies push to make inroads in Washington, DC, where they hope greater influence will win the crypto industry more forgiving regulatory conditions.