Inclusion has become a common buzzword in professional circles these days—more and more companies and industries are recognizing the need to promote a sense of belonging, trust, and community in their workplaces. But attorney Brian Brooks is looking at the issue of inclusion from an entirely different angle. As chief legal officer at digital currency platform Coinbase, Brooks is helping to make currency itself more open and equitable for everyone across the globe.
Both a wallet and a platform, Coinbase allows consumers and merchants alike to transact with novel digital currencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. Coinbase notes on its company website that it aims to drive an “open financial system” in which no one company or country has control: “We think this is the highest leverage way to bring about more economic freedom, innovation, efficiency, and equality of opportunity in the world. An open financial system can be a great equalizer and lift billions out of poverty while accelerating the pace of innovation around the world.”
Creating this kind of open, equality-based financial system is the best way Coinbase knows to change the world, the website explains. By making digital currencies approachable and accessible to everyone, Coinbase seeks to provide greater economic opportunity as well as reduce the public’s reliance on banks.
But there is much to be done in order to achieve those goals—namely the expansion of the company’s legal and compliance structures. And Brooks is more than prepared to take on those duties in his position as chief legal officer.
A Musical Mission
Outside of his legal work, Brooks finds purpose in fostering the arts—music, specifically. In addition to his current position as a member of the board of directors for the National Symphony Orchestra, Brooks has served as treasurer and a board member for the Los Angeles Master Chorale, a professional chorus company that has put on acclaimed productions such as Lagrime di San Pietro (the Tears of St. Peter).
Since graduating from Harvard University and obtaining his JD from the University of Chicago Law School, Brooks has explored legal, financial, and political spaces, serving as an advisor to John McCain from 2007 to 2008 and as the vice chairman of OneWest Bank (now CIT Bank, NA) from 2011 to 2014. He’s also been a managing partner at globally renowned financial services practice group O’Melveny & Myers LLP and, before joining Coinbase, was the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Fannie Mae (otherwise known as the Federal National Mortgage Association).
At Coinbase, Brooks leads the company’s global investigations and government relations groups as well as the internal audit, legal, and compliance functions. The legal department alone encompasses more than thirty people based in San Francisco, New York, Portland, and London, and Brooks continually strives to live up to the company’s values of clear communication and positive energy while building strong relationships with those teams.
In order to accomplish the company’s goals, Brooks also connects to and works with high-performing external teams. And the lawyer has high expectations for those teams. In a 2015 interview with Bloomberg Law’s Big Law Business, Brooks provided key insight into his approach to coordinating with outside counsel, stating, “There are lawyers who are really sources of market information and intelligence who are always letting you know what’s going on in your industry, even when you yourself may not have a need for them that day. Those are the people who really become the trusted advisors.”
On top of his duties as Coinbase’s chief legal officer, Brooks has also taken on the responsibility of serving as a board member for Fannie Mae as well as a founding advisor for Spring Labs, a new company that, per their website, is endeavoring to use a decentralized infrastructure to “unlock global access to credit for the tens of millions of Americans and billions of people globally without representation in today’s credit ecosystem.”
Digital currency is changing the way everyone thinks about and uses money—and thanks to leaders like Brooks and Coinbase, that change looks to be a welcome one.
Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP:
“Brian is a force, devouring entire fields of study and bringing to bear razor-sharp insight mustered at the helm of top legal departments. Squire Patton Boggs congratulates Brian and Coinbase’s legal team on this well-deserved recognition.”
—Matthew Miller and Michael Fluhr, Partners