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Benjamin Lawsky, former New York superintendent of Financial Services, is joining the board at enterprise blockchain start-up Ripple, a heavy-weight appointment lending regulatory gravitas to the company, which in 2015 was the first virtual currency exchanger to be fined by a US financial watchdog.
Mr Lawsky, who garnered a reputation for toughness during his four-year tenure as New York’s top finance regulator, is credited with designing the BitLicense, the state’s regulation for digital asset businesses. Only three companies have received this accreditation, according to the New York Department of Financial Services — including Ripple.
The former government official tweeted this morning that he was “[e]xcited and humbled” by the appointment at Ripple — a San Francisco-based start-up, which is building enterprise software for financial services using distributed ledger blockchain technology, touted as making payments and settlements cheaper and more efficient. Ripple proposes to use its own digital currency, XRP, to help banks with liquidity for cross-border payments.
The ambitious young blockchain company had a minor skirmish with regulators two years ago, when the US’ Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) fined it $700,000. FinCEN charged Ripple with violating Bank Secrecy Act rules by selling its virtual currency, XRP, without registering with FinCEN, and, said the watchdog, “failing to implement and maintain an adequate anti-money laundering (AML) program”.
Mr Lawsky joins an eclectic board, which includes Susan Athey, a Stanford economics professor; Ripple investor and venture capitalist Arjan Schütte; Gene Sperling, an economic adviser to Bill Clinton; and Ken Kurson, former chief editor of Jared Kushner-owned magazine the New York Observer.
Ripple has also added a new chief financial officer, Ron Will, who joins from advertising software company TubeMogul. Mr Will previously collaborated with Ripple’s current chief executive, Brad Garlinghouse, when both were working at Yahoo!.
“Lawsky and Will will play central roles in Ripple’s mission to achieve frictionless cross-border payments through the increased use of the digital asset XRP by financial institutions around the world,” said Ripple.
A spokesperson for Ripple said Mr Will has taking over the top finance job from Cameron Kinloch, who was vice president of finance. Ms Kinloch’s Linkedin profile states she has left for another company named Ripple (a California-based food business).
Ripple’s previous CFO was Bret Allenbach, a former finance chief of payments and risk at PayPal and a current senior director at eBay. Mr Allenbach left Ripple in June 2016 after less than a year, according to his LinkedIn profile.