Ex-Ripple Board Member Tapped to Lead Biden’s OCC: WSJ

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Michael S. Barr, a former Treasury Department official and former Ripple Advisory Board member, is likely to become the next currency validator, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

If Barr is named and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will succeed Brian Brooks, the former Coinbase executive who served as acting comptroller for the last half of 2020. Barr is currently the Dean of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. The news comes days after Politico first reported that Barr is being considered alongside law professor Mehrsa Baradaran.

Barr was part of the Barack Obama administration’s finance department, where he worked on banking regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act, the Journal reported. Barr did not immediately return a request for comment.

Barr joined Ripple’s advisory board in 2015, despite a company spokesperson confirming he was no longer a member earlier this week. The spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about when he left the board.

If Barr is actually nominated and confirmed, he will be the second person with a crypto connection to run the federal banking regulator that gave Anchorage a national charter of trust just last week.

Under Brooks’ leadership, the OCC also published a number of interpretative letters and finalized a fair access rule that crypto proponents believe can bring the industry closer to the traditional financial system by making it easier for these startups to use banking services.

Some of these letters of interpretation would also allow banks to participate in the cryptocurrency ecosystem by using stable coins for payments or acting as node operators on blockchain networks.

However, the fair access rule may be pending. While Brooks finalized it before stepping down from his role last Thursday, it hasn’t been posted on the Federal Register, meaning it hasn’t gone into effect yet. Ronald Klain, the White House chief of staff, issued a memo on Wednesday in which the directorate agency leads to repeal or freeze rules that have not yet been published.

UPDATE (January 21, 2021, 03:40 UTC): Added additional context, corrects Barr was on Ripple’s advisory board, not the board of directors.