The former head of the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), Brian Brooks, resigned as CEO of Binance.US last week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing a post from him on the social media platform Twitter. Brooks had only recently joined the company in the role on May 1.
Under Brooks' leadership at OCC, the regulator issued guidance regarding banks' use of stablecoins and blockchains, as well as an interpretive letter clarifying that national banks are allowed to provide cryptocurrency custody services.
Founder and CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, tweeted that "Brian's work for Binance.US has been invaluable and we hope he will continue to be an integral part of the crypto industry’s growth, advocating for regulations that move our industry forward."
Brooks quit his role at San Francisco-based Binance.US, citing "differences over strategic direction" in the Twitter post. He worked only three months at the company, which is the American counterpart to Binance — the Chinese company that operates the largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume.
His tweet Friday said: "Letting you all know I have resigned as CEO of @BinanceUS. Despite differences over strategic direction, I wish my former colleagues much success. Exciting new things to come!"
Binance launched the U.S. arm in 2019. But the company’s main exchange, initially based in China, blocked Americans in an effort to stay on the right side of regulators.
Brooks was acting comptroller when he exited the OCC in January. He joined the agency as chief operating officer in March 2020, and was nominated in November by President Donald Trump to serve a full five-year term as comptroller, but for that term to take effect would have required full Senate confirmation.
Ultimately, Brooks served as the comptroller less than a year, from May 2020 to January 2021. At the OCC, Brooks established a reputation as a crypto-currency-friendly regulator, earning the nickname "CryptoComptroller."
Under Brooks’ leadership, the OCC began allowing banks to provide cryptocurrency custody services and store cryptographic keys in July 2020. And this January, the OCC first permitted banks to use stablecoins for payments.
Before joining the OCC, Brooks worked as the chief legal officer for Coinbase, a major competitor to Binance.US.
Recently, such platforms have come under increased scrutiny by lawmakers and regulators. Binance in particular is reportedly under review by regulators in the U.S., Britain, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
In the U.S., Binance has been the subject of an investigation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is probing whether the platform allowed users to trade derivatives, Bloomberg reported in March, citing sources familiar with the matter. The CFTC investigation is directed at Binance, even though Americans must use Binance.US instead. And in May, the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service commenced money laundering investigations related to the company.
It is unclear what impact these investigations may have had on Brooks’ decision to resign.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Zhao stated that he would be willing to step down as the CEO of Binance in order to resolve the company’s regulatory problems.
Zhao tweeted on Friday "I remain confident in Binance.US’s business and its commitment to serve its customers and innovate." He added that "this transition will not impact Binance.US customers in any way."