Zurich-based Astra Protocol has hired former Department of Homeland Security head, Kirstjen Nielsen to help with compliance as the crypto regulatory landscape evolves.
Nielsen, a former government employee during the Trump Administration, will function as a strategic adviser to the firm, helping it to understand and identify real-world and cybersecurity risks in its quest to build a legal foundation for decentralized finance.
Her experience having founded her own risk-management company after her government stint will undoubtedly stand her in good stead in the new role. “What I was looking for was, rather than spending time getting behind a particular crypto or particular exchange, I was trying to find something that was a more systematic approach to encourage a decentralized financial environment,” she said.
Nielsen, a former corporate attorney, met founders before joining the Astra board, where her job will be to give the government feedback on potential regulations. “I think the key there is giving that feedback to those developing those regimes to help them understand, from an operational perspective, what the potential effects, the consequences are of the potential regulation,” Nielsen said.
Astra also hired former Trump special envoy
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that the crypto industry “has staked out a spot at Washington’s revolving door.” Indeed, crypto firms are headhunting former government officials to spearhead policy development in Washington.
Astra hired Mick Mulvaney, a former Trump special envoy to Northern Ireland, earlier to help shape their Web3 efforts. Three former chairs of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and three former senators and a former Treasury Secretary have taken up advisory roles in cryptocurrency firms.
Mary Jo White, a former SEC head, is spearheading Ripple Labs defense against its SEC lawsuit, while former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers advises the Digital Currency Group, the holding company behind Grayscale, the world’s largest digital asset manager. Government alumni hail from both political persuasions, Republican and Democratic.
Crypto also luring former Wall Street bankers
Many former Wall Street executives have also been lured by crypto, giving the industry an air of credibility, according to Henri Arslanian of PwC. Alesia Haas left Och-Ziff Capital Management for Coinbase, where she now holds the position of chief financial officer (CFO). Citigroup’s former co-head of futures, left the Wall Street bank to become chief operating officer at Copper.
The hiring spree was partly fueled by the rally of most cryptocurrencies in 2021.
“I think it’s hugely unsurprising that crypto firms are looking for the highest possible former government officials to act as advisers,” says Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy body. “As their power and the size of their business models grow, so does their outsized need to have robust influence peddling in Washington.”
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