Jim Messina attends a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Michael Kovac | Getty Images
Jim Messina, former President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff, brings some powerful lobbying guidelines to a London-based cryptocurrency trading platform as the industry braces for new regulations in the US and abroad.
The veteran political activist joined Blockchain.com’s board of directors early last year and has become a key advisor on government relations and political strategy, Chief Business Officer Lane Kasselman said in an interview with CNBC.
The crypto industry has ramped up lobbying around the world with potentially tough regulations on the horizon. The Biden administration released its framework for possible US crypto regulations earlier this month, including ways that could help combat fraud.
Kasselman described Messina as a critical guide to the company’s lobbying and overall political endeavors. He noted that Messina is not a registered lobbyist but often advises his team on lobbying strategies.
“It’s fair to say that we’re probably one of the most prolific companies when it comes to public policy engagement related to crypto globally, certainly in the US and Western Europe. It’s a direct result of Jim and his leadership on this front,” Kasselman said. Messina, Obama’s deputy chief of staff, is now CEO of consulting firm The Messina Group.
Although Messina is not a registered lobbyist, the Messina Group has provided guidance on lobbying and other political issues to Uber, Pillpack, Airbnb, Google, Delta Air Lines and Hutchison Whampoa on its website, according to a list of clients.
Beyond his tenure as an adviser to Obama, Messina’s firm has also advised influential government officials, including former British Prime Ministers Theresa May and David Cameron, as well as Mexican Enrique Peña Nieto, Argentinian Mauricio Macri and Italian Matteo Renzi. messina tweeted Photos of him at the White House as Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official portraits.
Kasselman credits Messina with hiring Ian Mair to head Blockchain.com’s US policy and Giles Swan to head Europe. Blockchain.com, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Miami, was also among a group of crypto companies pushing for elements of the Digital Financial Assets Law, which would tighten oversight of the industry in California, where many in the U.S resident crypto companies are located. They “offered changes and feedback” after the bill was introduced, Kasselmann said. He said their “principal focus of the amendment” is the bill’s “implementation period.”
If Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law, it would take effect in 2025, and companies such as
Kasselman also noted that Messina guided them on how best to lobby the European Parliament for its crypto regulation known as the Markets in Crypto Assets Rules.
Kasselman said they won their last battle with MPs and their staff when the EU decided “whether it would decide in principle to make non-custodial wallets illegal,” he said. These types of digital wallets that Blockchain.com promotes on its website effectively function as an ultra-secure crypto savings account.
“It is at the core of our business belief that we should give people control of their wealth and protect it from all other potential interference. And Jim really got us thinking, ‘What’s the argument, what’s going to work in Brussels? What are these members? of Parliament are concerned and how do we address those concerns?'” Kasselmann said. “And as a result of his advice, which has worked with heads of state across Europe for years, we have, I wouldn’t call it a campaign, but a kind of Argument developed that we went in and met with some of the ministers won.”
Swan, the company’s head of European policy, met with staff at EU Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness in May to discuss so-called regulation of money transfers, according to a disclosure report. McGuinness has been critical of cryptocurrencies, saying in a tweet last year that digital assets are “one of the newest ways to launder money.”