In the cryptocurrency world, “regulation” is often viewed as a four-letter word. Given that bitcoin was designed in part as a reaction to the failure of regulators to prevent the 2008 global financial crisis, the anti-regulation attitude is arguably an essential piece of cryptocurrency’s DNA. In the early days of cryptocurrency, many regulators spoke about bitcoin and other tokens in terms normally reserved for criminal enterprises, promising strict enforcement and harsh punishments. But a strange thing happened along the way. Many of those once antagonistic regulators quickly became cryptocurrency converts.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at five high-profile financial regulators who switched teams and joined the cryptocurrency revolution.
1. Robert A. Cohen: The former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Cyber Unit, Cohen is best known for initiating the SEC’s lawsuit against Kik Interactive’s 2017 $100 million token sale. Cohen spent 15 years at the SEC, but resigned in July of 2019 to join the firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP as partner. The law firm counts many high-profile cryptocurrency companies as clients, including major U.S. crypto exchange Coinbase.
2. Ben Lawsky: One of the primary architects behind the highly controversial “BitLicense” program, Lawsky served as New York State’s superintendent of financial services from 2011 to 2015. In 2017, Lawsky joined the Board of Directors at cryptocurrency firm Ripple Labs, a position he still holds. According to his bio on the Ripple website, the former regulator “will be instrumental to helping [Ripple] increase institutional adoption of XRP.”
3. Patrick J. Burke: Until late 2018, Burke served as the Deputy Superintendent of the Office of Financial Innovation at the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), a job that included the oversight of the BitLicense program. In early 2019, however, Burke switched teams to join the firm of Phillips Nizer, becoming the head of its Data Technology & Cybersecurity Group. According to Burke, his new job will focus on providing “cybersecurity, data privacy, blockchain and cryptocurrency” services to the firm’s clients.
4. Dana V. Syracuse: Another former NYDFS official from the BitLicense era, Syracuse served the regulatory agency as Associate General Counsel. In 2016, he joined the firm of Perkins Coie as Senior Counsel in Technology Transactions & Privacy. Not surprisingly, his job is to focus on ensuring regulatory compliance for the firm’s blockchain, cryptocurrency, and financial technology clients.
5. Arthur Levitt: In 1993, Levitt was appointed by then-President Clinton to the job of Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He left the job in 2001, making him the longest-serving Chairman in SEC history. Since leaving the SEC, Levitt has been involved in many high-profile projects, often as a special advisor and auditor. In 2018, the then 87-year-old Levitt joined the board of “high-volume” cryptocurrency investment and trading platform Omniex.