Banking

Brian Brooks joins blockchain company Spring Labs

Brian Brooks, the former acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has joined the board of Spring Labs, a company that designs technology to store and exchange data anonymously and securely on a shared blockchain.

Brooks has been an adviser to Spring Labs since 2018. Before joining the OCC, he was the chief legal officer at Coinbase. He’s also on the board of the online lender Avant.

The move continues a trend of fintechs hiring former regulators to smooth their way through compliance hurdles.

Brian Brooks served as acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for eight months.

NYDIG, a cryptocurrency technology and services company in New York, hired Benjamin Lawsky, a former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, as head of regulatory affairs. Sigal Mandelker, a former U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is a general partner at Ribbit Capital, a venture-capital firm that invests in fintech and is working on a joint venture with Walmart. Janice Payne, director of regulatory compliance at Coinbase, is a former Financial Industry Regulatory Authority official.

Brooks was acting comptroller for eight months last year, managing the OCC’s 3,500 employees and $1.1 billion budget during a pandemic. He put out a welcome mat to fintechs: Under his watch several fintechs received national banking charters, including Varo Bank, Jiko and SoFi.

Brooks, who was at times called “the first fintech comptroller” and “CryptoComptroller” for his interest in innovation, tried to push forward a special-purpose banking charter for payments companies. He also determined that national banks could use stablecoins and distributed ledger technologies to process payments.

Brooks also founded Project REACh, for Roundtable for Economic Access and Change, a partnership of large-bank CEOs, fintech founders, minority deposit institutions and civil rights groups working to identify and correct structural barriers to financial inclusion for minorities and other underserved Americans.

The technology at Spring Labs could be used by banks to share information anonymously without violating customer privacy rules or company confidentiality requirements. For instance, banks could use it to help each other verify the identity of online-only customers.

Brooks said he will be able to continue his work on financial inclusion in his new job.

“Spring Labs is transforming financial data exchange in a way that is better for consumers,” he said in a statement. “I launched my financial inclusion initiative Project REACh while at the OCC, and I look forward to working with the Spring Labs team to bring the benefits of financial services to more Americans, while reducing cost and increasing security for everyone.”



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