Billion-dollar blockchain startup Ripple, the developers of the Ripple payments network, has launched a new dedicated advocacy office in the U.S. Capitol as part of its growing efforts to educate lawmakers there on blockchain and cryptocurrency tech.
The San Francisco-based unicorn company announced the effort on October 22nd, hailing the move as the first time a large blockchain firm has opened up a global regulatory (GR) office in Washington D.C.
“In the U.S. and abroad, it’s important for policymakers to be armed with industry knowledge to help them shape conditions that will enable technological innovation to thrive,” Ripple chief executive officer Brad Garlinghouse said.
The company’s widened GR arm is headed up for Michelle Bond, who formerly worked as a Senior Counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and as a top executive at Bloomberg.
In its Tuesday announcement, Ripple noted Bond’s outfit would be joined by Susan Friedman and Ron Hammond. Friedman comes aboard as as an International Policy Counsel after having served as a top advisor to Heath Tarbert, the current chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Hammond joins the the operation as a Manager of Government Relations, having worked before as a congressional assistant to U.S. Representative Warren Davidson.
Notably, Ripple also took its latest update as an opportunity to reveal that Craig Phillips, previously a Counselor to the Secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department, had joined the company’s Board of Directors and that Ripple would also be separately joining the Blockchain Association, an advocacy group launched last fall that counts industry powers like Coinbase and Circle among its members.
Comes on the Heels of the SAIV Coalition
Ripple’s regulatory advocacy efforts are clearly intensifying.
Last month, Ripple spearheaded the launch of Securing America’s Internet of Value Coalition (SAIV), another lobbying group in Washington D.C.
The group, which has set its sights on promoting a “fair and equitable Internet of Value,” was joined by other cryptoeconomy upstarts in Coil, Hard Yaka, PolySign, and the RippleWorks Foundation.
On of SAIV’s first acts was to hire the D.C. lobbyist firm Klein/Johnson, which focuses on fintech subjects. As part of the deal, the organization agreed to retain the firm’s services through a monthly retainer of $25,000 USD and 10,000 XRP, the associated digital asset of the Ripple payments network.
“Hopefully it gives [Klein/Johnson] a taste of the industry in a way that hits home,” Chris Larsen, Ripple’s Executive Chairman, said at the time.
Ripple Says U.S. May Face Blockchain “Talent Flight”
No overarching regulatory framework for the blockchain industry has yet materialized in the U.S., which has led to system of patchwork and sometimes clashing laws.
The ensuing uncertainty has hampered startups and caused others to take there operations elsewhere. And Ripple’s leadership thinks that dynamic could worsen in the years ahead if American legislators don’t bring more legal clarity soon.
That’s per Ripple’s head of global institutional markets Breanne Madigan, who argued in a post last week that jurisdictions with coherent blockchain industry rules are likely to win over the most innovators on the global stage.
“Throughout the industry, there is concern that a lack of clear, consistent guidance from the U.S. could lead to a talent flight where innovators and companies will gravitate towards regions with defined regulatory frameworks,” Madigan said.
To that end, Ripple’s flurry of D.C.-minded moves this week can be seen as the company’s latest efforts to put their thumbs on the scales in nudging U.S. legislators in the direction of passing a comprehensive legal framework for the domestic blockchain industry.
We’ll see how successful Ripple proves to be on that front. To be sure, its conversations with U.S. officials are only just beginning.