Ripple advisor’s crypto connections kill appointment as banking regulator

Michael Barr is no longer under consideration to take over Brian Brooks’ role as the U.S. Treasury Department’s Comptroller of the Currency.

Barr faced a “a torrent of opposition from liberal Democrats,” Bloomberg reported this week.

His work for cryptocurrency companies was part of his undoing, the New York Times added that same day. 

An Obama-era treasury official, Barr was “opposed by progressives who see him as too moderate and are wary of his work for cryptocurrency companies,” the Times’ DealBook column said.

As a former member of international payments processor Ripple’s advisory board, Barr was part of a trio of crypto-connected financial regulators nominated or under consideration by the administration of President Joe Biden. Former MIT digital asset and blockchain professor Gary Gensler is in the process of being confirmed as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), while DC Fintech Week conference head Chris Brummer is said the be the choice to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees the nation’s largest banks including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, came to prominence in the cryptocurrency industry when Brooks stepped down as general counsel of Coinbase to take up the role on last March.

During his 10-month tenure as Acting Comptroller, Brooks made a number of hugely important rulings, including letting banks custody cryptocurrency and use stablecoins to make payments—the latter leading USDC-issuer Circle’s CEO Jeremy Allaire to tweet “[t]his is a HUGE way to start 2021.” Brooks also granted cryptocurrency custodian Anchorage the industry’s first federal bank charter.

Stablecoin regulation became a target of progressive congressional Democrats like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Brooks’ actions led American Banker to describe him as “one of the most active and controversial interim regulatory chiefs in recent memory.” 

An assistant treasury secretary for Financial Institutions under President Barak Obama, Barr helped write the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which enacted strong reforms of financial regulations in the wake of the 2008-2009 prime mortgage crisis.

He is currently Dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, as well as a professor at its law school, where he teaches financial regulation and international finance. He co-founded the school’s International Transactions Clinic. 


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