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Ex-CFTC Chair, ‘Crypto Dad’ Giancarlo Joins Willkie Farr (1)

Dec. 2, 2019, 10:53 PMUpdated: Dec. 2, 2019, 11:59 PM

Christopher Giancarlo, the former chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a leading figure in cryptocurrency regulation, has joined Willkie Farr & Gallagher as a senior counsel in New York.

Giancarlo had left the body that regulates futures, options and swaps derivatives markets when his five-year term expired in July. He had served as chairman since President Trump nominated him to the post in mid-2017. President Obama first nominated him as a CFTC commissioner in 2014.

Giancarlo oversaw the first bitcoin futures products entering the market. He’s spoken widely about cryptocurrency, while many other regulators have stayed largely quiet on the emerging financial technology.

Giancarlo’s Twitter handle, @giancarloMKTS, has some 45,000 followers after he rose to Internet prominence thanks to his February 2018 Congressional testimony during which he advocated for a “do no harm” regulatory stance toward blockchain products.

He earned the nickname “Crypto Dad” from online cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

“I have spent three and a half decades advising and building global businesses and regulatory frameworks in the junction of trading markets, technology and law,” Giancarlo said in a statement. “Today, I am thrilled to join a firm that is a center of excellence in all three areas. I look forward to working with the firm’s attorneys and clients in building the digital financial markets of tomorrow.”

Giancarlo’s move to Willkie is his first time practicing at a law firm since the early 2000s, when he was a partner at now-dissolved Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner. He had also practiced at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle and his own firm, Giancarlo & Gleiberman.

Giancarlo spent nearly 15 years as a top executive of brokerage GFI Group Inc., which he helped take public in 2005. He left that position for the CFTC.

Since leaving the government he has also joined the board of advisors for the Chamber of Digital Commerce, which advocates for digital assets and the blockchain industry.

“As a leading voice on the regulation of emerging technologies, Chris brings knowledge, experience and public and private sector relationships that will be invaluable to our clients in the financial services, technology and commodities sectors,” Willkie Chairman Steven Gartner said in a statement. “His legal and corporate background, unparalleled knowledge of the global derivatives markets and their intersection with emerging technologies, combined with his longstanding relationships across the firm, make him a natural fit for Willkie.”

Giancarlo’s Twitter fame has brought him many fans, but it has had pitfalls. Bloomberg Businessweek reported he was embroiled in a number of mini-controversies which included becoming a target for impersonators who used his likeness in attempts to solicit bitcoin donations on behalf of the U.S. government. Giancarlo tweeted in February that no one should send him donations.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher is one of the country’s most profitable firms, with its nearly 150 equity partners making an average of about $3 million last year, according to the most recent AmLaw rankings. Senior counsel usually do not draw from a firm’s profit pool, however.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com