Coinbase hires George Osborne as adviser

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Former UK chancellor George Osborne has joined the advisory council of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, as the company faces increasing regulatory scrutiny.

The San Francisco-based exchange is expanding in jurisdictions ranging from Singapore to Bermuda, and is embroiled in a high-profile battle with US regulators after the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged it failed to register as a national securities exchange. The company is fighting the lawsuit.

The company said it anticipated relying on Osborne’s “insights and experiences as we grow Coinbase around the world”. During a visit to London last April, Coinbase chief executive Brian Armstrong flirted with the idea of relocating the Nasdaq-listed exchange, suggesting that “anything was on the table”. He has since reiterated Coinbase’s commitment to the US.

In contrast to the US’s tough stance on the crypto sector, the UK government has set out to market itself as a “hub” for digital assets. Ministers last year unveiled wide-ranging plans to regulate the sector, including a proposal to introduce stablecoins — digital tokens pegged to hard currencies — as an option for payments.

Earlier this month, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves posted a photograph on social media platform X of herself with Sriram Krishnan of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz — which last year chose London for its first office outside the US — thanking Coinbase for hosting breakfast at the event. “The next Labour government will work with the tech sector to bring jobs and prosperity to Britain,” she said.

Osborne’s appointment to Coinbase’s ranks is the latest sign the exchange is increasing its efforts to bring lawmakers and politicians onside. In December last year, the exchange — alongside other big crypto companies — directed more funds towards the election of pro-crypto lawmakers in the US ahead of a presidential election coming later this year. 

“There’s a huge amount of exciting innovation in finance right now,” said Osborne, adding that “blockchains are transforming financial markets and online transactions”.

Last year, a cross-party group of politicians recommended the UK abandon its ambitions for digital assets and instead regulate the sector as gambling, describing crypto assets as having “no intrinsic value” and having “no discernible social good”.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is also enforcing strict rules on crypto marketing, a move that promoted Binance — the largest crypto exchange — to halt its attempts to market itself to British consumers.

Osborne, who was chancellor between 2010 and 2016 and quit as a Conservative MP the following year, holds a number of jobs. He is a partner at boutique investment bank Robey Warshaw and chair of the British Museum. He also serves as chair of Lingotto, a fund launched by investment vehicle Exor, controlled by Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family.

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