Crypto Giant Binance Seeks In-House Lawyers As Probes Pile Up – Bloomberg Law

Binance Holdings Ltd., the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is looking to hire at least a dozen lawyers to bolster its in-house ranks as it faces legal and regulatory inquiries around the world.

The online job postings by Binance come after the company brought on Brian Brooks, a former acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, on May 1 to be CEO of affiliate Binance.US.

A former general counsel at Fannie Mae and managing partner of O’Melveny & Myers’ Washington office, Brooks was also previously chief legal officer for Coinbase Global Inc., a rival cryptocurrency exchange that went public this year. In March, he joined the board of blockchain technology startup Spring Labs Inc.

Brooks, who spoke with Bloomberg TV this week about the evolving role of cryptocurrencies, didn’t respond to requests for comment about Binance’s in-house hiring efforts, nor did the company itself.

“We are at the cusp of mainstream adoption of blockchain technology and digital tokens by individuals, institutions, and governments alike,” Brooks said in an April 20 statement announcing his hire. “I look forward to working with Binance.US’s talented team to promote its culture of compliance and continue to grow its product and service offerings across markets.”

Bloomberg News reported this month that Binance is under investigation by the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service for potential money laundering and tax offenses. The company is also reportedly facing other inquiries from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and regulators in Germany.

Christopher Robins, a former Buckley bank regulatory and compliance associate in Washington who joined Binance.US in 2019 as head of legal and regulatory affairs, was promoted in April to general counsel, according to his LinkedIn profile. Robins, who didn’t respond to a request for comment about his new role, publicly welcomed Brooks to Binance in a LinkedIn post last month.

Chinese businessman Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is a founder and CEO of Binance.

The company is currently looking to hire a dozen lawyers in Asia, per Binance’s online jobs board, as well as several other compliance and regulatory specialists in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and South Africa. While Binance claims it has no single corporate headquarters, Bloomberg News noted in May that the company is domiciled in the Cayman Islands, a well-known offshore tax haven.

Chainalysis Inc., a blockchain risk management startup that recently hired a top compliance lawyer, noted in a report last year that more funds linked to illicit activity flowed through Binance than any other cryptocurrency exchange.

Binance, in a statement issued earlier this month to Bloomberg News, said “we take our legal obligations very seriously and engage with regulators and law enforcement in a collaborative fashion.”

Legal Recruits

In March, Binance announced its addition of former Sen. Maxwell Baucus (D-Mont.) as a policy and government relations adviser. Baucus, a former lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission, now has a consultancy near Bozeman, Mont.

Baucus, who most recently served as the U.S. ambassador to China during the Obama administration, told Bloomberg TV earlier this year that Binance could potentially register as a broker with the CFTC.

Binance made another notable legal hire last November in Hon Cheung Ng, a former senior corporate lawyer at Latham & Watkins who spent the past half-dozen years in-house in Hong Kong at ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies Inc.

“A lot of people ask me why did I join Binance from Uber?” Ng posted last month on LinkedIn. “That’s an easy one: the answer is that Binance, like Uber, is trying to change the world.”

Ng’s message added that “every generation has a few companies who have lofty goals,” calling Binance one of them and listing openings for four in-house lawyer jobs covering commercial and corporate, disputes, payments, and regulatory.

Binance has several U.S. law firms on retainer, according to Bloomberg Law data.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and California’s Keesal, Young & Logan are serving as co-counsel to Binance in litigation filed against the company last year by Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Fisco, which accuses Binance of “aiding and abetting” the laundering of proceeds from a $60 million hack it suffered in 2018. Both firms are also advising Binance in another lawsuit filed against it last year by a former service provider over $300,000 in allegedly confiscated funds.

New Jersey’s Walsh Pizzi O’Reilly Falanga is representing Binance in a defamation lawsuit it filed in mid-November against Forbes Media LLC and two of the publication’s writers over an October 2020 story about the company’s corporate structure and interactions with regulators.

Womble Bond Dickinson, Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma, and Minneapolis-based Hamre, Schumann, Mueller & Larson have all handled trademark work for Binance, according to public records.