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Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase nabs top Fannie Mae exec Brian Brooks

Fannie Mae general counsel leaving after 4 years

Once rumored to be on the Trump administration’s shortlist to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, top Fannie Mae executive Brian Brooks is set to leave the federal government behind for the cryptocurrency industry.

Brooks, who has served as Fannie Mae’s executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for almost four years, is stepping down from that position Friday to become the chief legal officer of Coinbase, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges.

Brooks came to Fannie Mae in 2014 after leaving OneWest Bank, where he served as vice chairman and chief legal officer.

During his time at OneWest, he worked closely with Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is the former chairman of OneWest.

Mnuchin and his partners at Dune Capital Management formed OneWest after buying the remains of IndyMac Federal Bank from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2009. Mnuchin and his partners sold OneWest to CIT Group in 2015

Mnuchin and Brooks weren’t the only former high-ranking OneWest officials to take on significant positions in the government in recent years (although it should be noted that Fannie Mae is a government-sponsored enterprise, not technically part of the government).

Joseph Otting, who served as the CEO of OneWest from 2010 until 2015, is Comptroller of the Currency.

There was talk that Brooks may be the Trump administration’s choice to lead the CFPB after former Richard Cordray stepped down, but that role went to Mick Mulvaney.

And now, Brooks is set to leave Fannie Mae this week for Coinbase.

According to Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, Brooks’ connections in the government and experience in Washington, D.C., is one of the reasons that the cryptocurrency exchange hired Brooks away from Fannie Mae.

“From the time it was founded seven years ago, Coinbase has been a leading advocate for the adoption of cryptocurrency. We’ve engaged proactively with regulators as we built products and services that allow people to buy, sell and use cryptocurrency all over the world,” Armstrong said in a post on Coinbase’s blog.

“In recent years, the industry expanded faster than we could have imagined with an explosion in customer demand and entrepreneurial activity pushing the capabilities of the ecosystem forward. As this trend continues, it is more important than ever that we contribute to a public policy and regulatory environment that fosters innovation while protecting investors,” Armstrong continued.

“That is why I’m thrilled to welcome Brian Brooks as the new chief legal officer for Coinbase,” Armstrong added. “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.”

According to Fannie Mae, Brooks’ last day with the GSE is Friday.

“We are extremely grateful for Brian’s four years of strong leadership, insightful counsel, and critical contributions to Fannie Mae’s transformation, and we wish he were staying,” said Fannie Mae CEO Tim Mayopoulos.

“This is a loss for Fannie Mae, but also a great opportunity for Brian to pursue his longstanding interest in financial technologies and the fintech community,” Mayopoulos added. “Fortunately, our company’s bench of legal talent is strong and deep.”

According to Mayopoulos, Fannie Mae’s vice general counsel, Stephen McElhennon, will serve as Brooks’ replacement on an interim basis while the GSE searches for a permanent replacement.

“I am proud and appreciative to have played a role in the great progress, innovation, and transformation at Fannie Mae during the last four years,” Brooks said in a statement provided by Fannie Mae. “I look forward to watching Fannie Mae continue its important work delivering innovative solutions for the housing finance system, its customers, and the homeowners and renters they serve.”

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