Crypto Law Veteran Mike Lempres Departs Coinbase for Andreessen Horowitz

Coinbase former chief legal officer Mike Lempres.

Coinbase's former chief legal officer has left the crypto company for venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, an early Coinbase investor.

Coinbase's chief policy officer Mike Lempres will be an executive in residence at the Menlo Park-based venture firm, helping Andreessen Horowitz evaluate crypto investment opportunities and advising portfolio companies on legal and regulatory issues.

His departure comes at a time of regulatory uncertainty for the digital currency industry. In the past few months, New York’s Department of Financial Services and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors have sued the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency over its national bank charter program for financial technology companies, delaying federal regulatory clarity for crypto organizations.

During his time at Coinbase, Lempres was a vocal actor in the crypto space, pushing for increased education and regulatory clarity as the company grew rapidly. Lempres said on Monday that he's still involved in some transition work at Coinbase and that his new role will give him a chance to try something new.

"I've been looking for a transition for a while. Not from Coinbase, I love Coinbase. It was time," Lempres said. "The hypergrowth is tough to go through. It's great to go through, but presents some stresses. This gives me an opportunity to take a step back, which is what I've wanted to do. Advise some folks. Andreessen Horowitz is probably the greatest place on earth to be doing this."

Lempres' move comes approximately two months after his transition to chief policy officer from chief legal officer, following the hire of new Coinbase legal leader Brian Brooks. When former Fannie Mae general counsel Brooks joined Coinbase as CLO, Lempres' focus shifted to leading crypto industry lobbying group the Blockchain Association as its inaugural president. It's unclear if Lempres will continue in his Blockchain Association role.

In a September blog post, Coinbase CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong said Brooks' hire was part of the company's effort to "expand our legal, compliance and government affairs capabilities as we head into this next chapter for the company and the cryptocurrency industry as a whole."

Armstrong said in the same post that Lempres had "successfully led our legal function through an important chapter of the company’s history."

Lempres joined Coinbase in early 2017 as chief legal and risk officer. Prior to that, he spent a year as general counsel, chief compliance officer and corporate secretary of another digital currency company, Bitnet Technologies Ltd.

He got his first taste of crypto law while serving as the assistant general counsel and practice head at Silicon Valley Bank. Lempres started his in-house career at Pacific Exchange, Inc., after more than a decade of government and private practice roles, according to his LinkedIn page.

"As Chief Legal and Risk Officer during a time of tremendous growth for Coinbase, Mike was instrumental in building the company’s legal and compliance functions and driving our vision of trust through compliance," a Coinbase spokesperson said in an email. "He now joins an impressive group of Coinbase alumni who are pursuing their passions beyond our walls. We wish him the best in his new position with Andreessen Horowitz, a company we know shares our values and drive to see crypto flourish."

Andreessen Horowitz has previously tapped the Bay Area legal market for crypto talent. In June the firm brought on former federal prosecutor Kathryn “Katie” Haun as its first female general partner. The move came on the same day the firm announced the launch of a $300 million fund to focus on cryptocurrency companies and protocols.

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