New OCC Chief Cashed $4.6 Million in Coinbase Stock for U.S. Job

(Bloomberg) -- The new chief regulator of U.S. national banks liquidated $4.6 million in Coinbase Inc. stock options when he left the cryptocurrency exchange earlier this year to join the government, according to financial disclosures he was required to file.

Brian Brooks, who became interim head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last month, has said he intends to leverage the experience he gained at San Francisco-based Coinbase and other tech firms to push a financial technology agenda at the 157-year-old agency, including opening up banking charters for tech firms.

New OCC Chief Cashed $4.6 Million in Coinbase Stock for U.S. Job

“I think we can charter a number of institutions, some of whom are current applicants that have their roots in technology,” Brooks said in an interview last week, arguing that answering to 50 state-based regulators is too difficult for fintech firms that want to do business across the nation. “We need a national financial system, and the OCC’s the platform for doing that.”

As Coinbase’s chief legal officer, Brooks was paid $1.4 million in salary -- separate from the stock options -- in the year and a half he spent with company, which had weighed seeking a charter through the OCC before making other moves to access the banking system. He also received $1.5 million in the past two years from Fannie Mae, where he was a board member after having been the company’s top lawyer.

Brooks traded those lucrative posts to earn less than $300,000 a year running the OCC. But he still has stock and bond holdings between $1 million and $2.2 million. Also, OCC chiefs are among high-ranking government officials who often move on to high-paying positions after their time in the government.

Because he’s acting comptroller -- not yet nominated by President Donald Trump to seek Senate confirmation -- he’s not required to take the ethics pledge that would limit his ability to work in lobbying after he leaves the job, according to an OCC spokesman. However, Brooks has submitted a letter through the agency’s ethics office outlining companies he’ll steer clear of because of potential conflicts of interest, including Amazon.com Inc., Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit, Coinbase and a number of other tech firms he’s worked with.

His predecessor, Joseph Otting, was one of the wealthier comptrollers in agency history, having earned a fortune when OneWest Bank Group, the lender he ran for investors led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, was acquired by CIT Group Inc. Brooks worked with Otting and Mnuchin as a OneWest executive and board member.

Otting, who left the job last month, wasn’t out of work long. He was tapped this week to join the board of Black Knight Inc., which provides software for the mortgage industry.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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