Coinbase Poaches Goldman Exec to Serve as Chief Policy Officer

By Jeff John Roberts

Crypto exchange Coinbase announced on Monday it has hired Faryar Shirzad, the co-head of Government Relations at Goldman Sachs, to fill the new position of Chief Policy Officer.

“Faryar’s impressive experience … will be invaluable as we navigate the evolving global regulatory environment and work with governments around the world on critical issues surrounding the cryptoeconomy,” said Coinbase in a blog post announcing the hire.

Crypto goes to Washington

The move to hire Shirzad, who served in the Bush White House before a 15-year tenure at Goldman, is notable for several reasons. First, it underscores how regulatory concerns are looming larger than ever in the crypto industry, and how firms like Coinbase are turning to veteran lobbyists and political fixers to help them navigate Washington, DC.

Shirzad’s hire also signifies how Coinbase and its CEO Brian Armstrong, who formerly spurned Washington-style politics, are now seeking to exert influence in the capital like never before. This was reflected in a week-long trip to Washington earlier this month in which Armstrong, along with Coinbase’s top lawyer, Paul Grewal, and board member Katie Hahn, met with lawmakers to push for greater regulatory clarity for crypto.

Armstrong summarized the trip in a recent tweet thread in which he praised the Clinton Administration’s professed “do no harm” policy towards the Internet in the 1990s, which many credit with helping the U.S. become a leader in the web economy. The Coinbase CEO, who posted pictures with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, also tweeted that the U.S. should create a legal “safe harbor” for crypto startups, and asked the Biden Administration to signal that “crypto companies are welcome in the U.S.”

10/ Also, a signal from the current administration that crypto companies are welcome in the U.S. would go a long way.

— Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong) May 15, 2021

Shirzad is not the first example of Coinbase hiring big names from the traditional tech and finance world. Another is Grewal —to whom Shirzad will report—who the company plucked from Facebook last year. Meanwhile, Coinbase recently hired prominent lawyer Ariana Woods from Capital One, where she worked as associate general counsel and head of intellectual property, and compliance veteran Ian Rooney from Morgan Stanely.

The Crypto Council for Innovation

In addition to hiring veteran law and policy types, Coinbase is also trying to increase its juice in Washington, DC by standing up a new trade group called the Crypto Council for Innovation (CCI). The new group is reportedly well-funded and also backed by crypt hedge fund Paradigm, and finance giants Square and Fidelity.

Coinbase’s decision to join the CCI came shortly after the company decided to pull out an existing lobby group, Blockchain Alliance, over its decision to admit controversial rival Binance—a move that critics say risks splintering the crypto industry’s lobbying efforts in Washington.

As for Shirzad’s role as Chief Policy Officer, Coinbase said he will work with lawmakers to “realize crypto’s full potential to fuel a more equitable financial system along with job creation, GDP growth, and innovation.”