FTX.US crypto exchange lures across Sullivan & Cromwell partner to be general counsel

Move comes as $18bn-valued company prepares for greater security by new legal head's former boss, SEC chairman Gary Gensler
Portrait of Ryne Miller

Ryne Miller

West Realm Shire Services, which owns US cryptocurrency exchange FTX.US, has hired Sullivan Cromwell partner Ryne Miller as its general counsel as it seeks to shore up its compliance expertise amid growing regulatory scrutiny of the crypto market.

FTX, which was recently valued at $18 bin in a $900m financing round, will draw on Miller’s expertise as a former US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) lawyer where he served as legal counsel to then chairman Gary Gensler, who now heads up the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

He joined Sullivan’s New York office as an associate in 2013, stepping up to partner in 2019 and co-heading its commodities, futures and derivatives practice.

Miller leaves with the blessing of Sullivan chairman Joseph Shenker, who said: “Ryne has been a wonderful contributor to our broad ranging commodities, futures, derivatives and cryptocurrency practices, and FTX is fortunate to have brought him in-house. We very much look forward to continuing to work with Ryne and FTX.US.”

His appointment coincides with a scathing assessment of the asset by Gensler in a speech on Tuesday (3 August), when he likened the market to the Wild West and pledged to deploy the SEC’s existing powers to regulate cryptocurrencies as tightly as possible while also calling on lawmakers to give him greater powers to protect investors from “fraud, scams and abuse”.

In a statement, Brett Harrison, president of FTX.US, said Miller would help guide the business through the evolving regulatory landscape of cryptocurrencies and derivatives.

He added: “[Miller’s] industry expertise and leadership will be critical as we forge cooperative working relationships with US regulators amid the expansion of our businesses. We share with them the desire to establish digital assets as a safe and reliable investment vehicle, and with Ryne we are confident we will serve as a helpful resource in achieving this goal.”

Earlier this month, trading platform FalconX hired James Morgan as its first general counsel from BitGo, a digital asset trust and security company based in Palo Alto that announced in May it was being bought by Galaxy Digital for $1.2bn

Law firms are also ramping up their crypto coverage in anticipation of growing regulatory oversight. In June, K&L Gates hired a duo of crypto lawyers – Andrew Hinkes and Justin Wales – from Carlton Fields to boost the firm’s US fintech practice in Miami and Los Angeles.

Back in April, Silicon Valley-based law firm Fenwick & West advised cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase on its direct listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange, the first major crypto business to go public.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]