Ripple has expanded, opening offices in Washington, DC – the first major blockchain company with a dedicated global regulatory team in the US capitol. But this doesn’t come alone: Ripple is joining the Blockchain Association with Michelle Bond, Ripple’s Global Head of Government Relations, seated at the board, and even further, Craig Phillips, former Counselor to the Secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, has joined Ripple’s Board of Directors.
“Every federal regulator is looking at this space and trying to figure out how to regulate it, and having a DC presence is essential to smart and effective regulation. We’re focused on maintaining a dialogue with Washington regulators and policymakers and being a resource to the Hill allows us to be easily accessible at all times.”, Brad Garlinghouse comments, asked about the importance of a physical presence in DC.
The DC office, led by Michelle Bond, is joined by several members of the global regulatory team, but also new additions to the team: Ron Hammond, who previously worked on the Token Taxonomy Act under Rep Warren Davidson and Sue Friedman who is joining Ripple from the Treasury Department.
Further, asked how come Ripple is the first major blockchain company to venture into DC, Brad Garlinghouse replies: “I can’t speak to what other companies are doing, but Ripple has welcomed conversations with regulators and governments from the beginning – we sat on the Federal Reserve Faster Payments Task Force, are part of the IMF’s Fintech Advisory Board, hosted a summit for central banks to learn about blockchain and we continue to engage with 50+ governments worldwide – and establishing an office here is a natural extension of that work.”
Just over a year ago, in September 2018, Ripple started the Securing America’s Internet of Value Coalition (SAIV) with RippleWorks, Coil, Hard Yaka and PolySign, with hopes to influence regulators and policymakers. The new Ripple DC office does not mean the end of this coalition, but it will merge into the Blockchain Association.
“At Ripple, we’re supporting and participating in many groups and causes that align with our mission and values, and our commitment to effective policy is ongoing and will continue to grow. To that end and as noted above, Ripple has joined the Blockchain Association, and our Global Head of Government Relations, Michelle Bond, is now on the board of the Blockchain Association. The SAIV Coalition is in the process of merging into the Blockchain Association, which we believe is a sign of industry maturity and the best way to present a unified voice to policymakers.”, says Brad Garlinghouse.
Craig Phillips will provide counsel to Ripple’s leadership team and advise on strategic regulatory opportunities. When asked about the first things on his agenda, he commented, “As an Independent Director, my first agenda will be to get to know the Company [Ripple] and understand its operations and strategic objectives. I was drawn to its cutting-edge technology and the quality of the current directors, senior advisors and management team, whose experience spans across technology, traditional finance, and economic policy. As a member of the board, I will be asked to provide counsel on strategic regulatory opportunities as the company continues to expand globally and establishes roots in DC”.
Further, he adds, “It feels like a natural fit to share my experience in both the private and public sector with Ripple at a time when all eyes are on the blockchain and crypto industry. Ripple has made it a priority to work with regulatory bodies to develop a safe and predictable compliance environment, and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to that effort.”
The phrase “regulatory uncertainty” is known as one of the primary things holding back financial institutions from using cryptocurrencies. We asked Brad Garlinghouse if they expect to be able to influence this by moving into DC to which he responded:
“At Ripple, our goal is to be a resource for policymakers in Washington so they can make the most informed decisions possible to continue to foster an environment where the U.S. is a leader in financial innovation. Ripple is the first major blockchain company with a local presence in Washington, D.C. and we believe it’s critical to have a presence here in order to work alongside regulators, educate them about the industry and explain why all digital assets should not be painted with one broad brush. There are nearly 3,000 different digital currencies out there, and it’s imperative that governments look at the utility and nature of each separately.
This is also why we’re excited to join the Blockchain Association, the most credible crypto/blockchain trade association on the Hill. It’s important for the industry to come together and work with regulators in a proactive and productive manner to push the industry forward.
While some governments are proactively addressing regulation, the world often looks to the U.S. as a market leader and we risk falling behind if clear regulation isn’t established. Blockchain solutions and digital assets are important innovations that can no longer be ignored and regulatory inaction shouldn’t be an option. The right regulatory framework will actually reduce risk, while uncertainty continues to hold good actors in gridlock and lets the bad actors play in the margins.”
Brad Garlinghouse also points to Libra saying, “There is more attention on cryptocurrency and blockchain today than ever before, and it’s incredibly important that the industry shows we’re not all like Libra and we want to work with Washington regulators and policymakers to ensure the U.S. continues to be a leader in this important emerging sector. We’re in the most formative years of crypto regulation today, and we think it’s critical to be a part of that conversation. We are opening an office in D.C. because right now this industry has the Hill’s attention, and every federal regulator is looking at this space and trying to figure out how to regulate it and we want to be a resource to those who are shaping the future policy.”
When the Libra cryptocurrency project was announced, it appeared to increase the awareness of lack of regulations amongst governments, regulators and policymakers. We asked Craig Phillips if this awareness has settled down, or is it still on the agenda to which he said: “It’s too early to determine if Libra has a future and what that future might look like. The negative reaction from the regulatory and central banking community around the world has been notable. Here in the U.S., Facebook is under scrutiny by legislators and policy makers concerning its business model, market dominance and consumer privacy protections quite unrelated to Libra. Aside from those considerations, I believe much of the reaction arises from the implications of a social media platform entering financial services and the direct-to-consumer approach, on a global scale, that has been proposed. Ripple has called for a regulatory framework for cryptocurrency that is clear and globally consistent. Ripple delivers its services through established, regulated financial institutions. In that sense, there are significant differences to the approach that Facebook has taken with Libra and Ripple’s strategy.”