Crypto & National Security: Sanctions & Statecraft in a Time of War

Episode Summary

In light of the horrific war happening in the Ukraine, we wanted to air our conversation with the esteemed lawyers and Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security veterans Jason Weinstein and Alan Cohn about the role of cryptocurrency in national security matters and the use of financial regulation as a serious tool of statecraft. We also discuss the upcoming Executive Order on cryptocurrency that is expected to come from the White House later this week.

Episode Notes

Jason Weinstein conducts internal investigations and represents companies and individuals in high-profile criminal matters. With 15 years of experience in senior positions at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), he helps corporations and boards successfully navigate challenging government enforcement matters and defends individuals in criminal investigations and prosecutions. He is recognized across the United States as an authority on legal and regulatory issues involving digital currencies and blockchain technology. Jason serves as co-chair of Steptoe's White-Collar and Securities Enforcement and the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency practices.

Jason regularly directs internal investigations, tries complex cases, and represents clients in criminal investigations before the DOJ as well as other government agencies. As the former deputy assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Criminal Division, he oversaw the most significant organized crime, financial crime, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft investigations in America. Before joining the Criminal Division, Jason served for nearly 10 years as an assistant US attorney in the US Attorney's Offices for the Southern District of New York and the District of Maryland, where he investigated and prosecuted cases involving financial crimes, public corruption, racketeering, cybercrime, national security, narcotics, money laundering, immigration offenses, and violent crime. In the District of Maryland, where he served as Assistant Chief of the Criminal Division and as Chief of the Violent Crime Section, Jason prosecuted many of the highest-profile cases of the past decade in Baltimore. He brings this experience to bear in each client matter, many of which are extremely prominent. Among other recent matters, he represents Volkswagen in the criminal case arising from the diesel emissions controversy and led the independent investigation by the board of Pilot Flying J in response to allegations of fraudulent sales practices.

Jason is widely recognized for his command of the complex legal issues surrounding digital currencies and the blockchain. He is the director of the Blockchain Alliance, a public-private forum established by a broad coalition of companies and organizations to help combat criminal activity involving digital currencies and blockchain technology. He also sits on the strategic advisory board of Bitfury, the leading full-service blockchain technology company and one of the largest private infrastructure providers in the industry, and serves on the advisory board of the Chamber of Digital Commerce and Coin Center.

Alan Cohn counsels clients on a range of blockchain- and cryptocurrency-related issues, from regulatory best practices for cryptocurrency companies to legal issues associated with novel uses of blockchain technology. In addition to co-leading Steptoe's Blockchain & Cryptocurrency practice, Alan also co-leads the firm's National and Homeland Security practice, and has experience across homeland security, emergency management, and emergency response services at the federal and local level. 

Alan represents a variety of different types of entities focusing on blockchain and cryptocurrency, from cryptocurrency trading platforms to investment funds to startups developing new blockchain protocols, as well as corporations interested in exploring potential applications of blockchain technology. Alan helped found Steptoe's Blockchain and Cryptocurrency practice and serves as its co-chair. Alan also serves as counsel to the Blockchain Alliance, a public-private forum established by a broad coalition of companies and organizations to help combat criminal activity on the blockchain, and advises companies and investors concerning a range of issues associated with the adoption and use of blockchain and distributed ledger technology. Alan is ranked among the top US lawyers in Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies by Chambers USA (2019-2020), where he is noted for his "tremendous depth of expertise in regulatory issues facing blockchain platforms and cryptocurrencies." He is also recognized as an MVP in FinTech by Law360 (2019), a trailblazer in both Cryptocurrency, Blockchain & FinTech (2018) and Cybersecurity (2017) by National Law Journal and as a Next Generation Lawyer in Cyber Law by The Legal 500 (2017-2019). Alan brings a unique perspective, focusing on the intersection of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology with cybersecurity and cybercrime, and advising clients on national security and emerging technology issues.  

Before joining Steptoe, Alan served as a career official in senior policy positions at The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for almost a decade, during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.  Most recently, he served as the Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Planning, Analysis & Risk and second-in-charge overall of the DHS Office of Policy during the second term of the Obama Administration. Among a variety of responsibilities, Alan oversaw emergency preparedness and response policy for the DHS Office of Policy, and participated in and helped run a variety of scenario planning and tabletop exercise activities at DHS. Alan also established the cyber policy office within the DHS Office of Policy, represented DHS on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) and related national security review processes for foreign investments, and architected and helped implement DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson's Unity of Effort Initiative, a major corporate-level DHS management reform effort. Prior to joining DHS, he worked with FEMA's National Urban Search & Rescue Response System for 11 years and served as chair of the System Advisory Committee's Legal Issues Working Group. He is the author of "Domestic Preparedness: Law, Policy, and National Security," a legal casebook on emergency management law and policy, as well as book chapters concerning federal preparedness grant funding. Alan also is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center where he has taught Domestic Preparedness Law and Policy and National Security Crisis Law, and a non-resident fellow at Georgetown Law’s Center on National Security and the Law.