Former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn joins blockchain start-up

Finance news

Former White House economic advisor Gary Cohn is finally unveiling his next career move: blockchain.

Cohn, who left the Trump administration in March, will join start-up Spring Labs as an advisor, the company announced in a press release Friday. The firm uses blockchain technology to share credit data between banks.

The former Goldman Sachs president told the Financial Times, which first reported the news, that this was a “unique opportunity,” and “an obvious place to take a very, very analogue industry and digitize.” Cohn has made very few public appearances since leaving the administration, and this is one of the first reports of his next job.

“I have been very interested in blockchain technology for a number of years, and Spring Labs is developing a network that could have profound implications for the financial services sector, among others,” Cohn said in a press release Friday. “I am excited to actively support the Spring Labs team in the development of this important business and network.”

The 20-person start-up uses blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, to swap credit and identity information between banks and corporations. The task of safely transferring consumer credit information has plagued companies such as Equifax, which was hacked earlier this year, subsequently unveiling the private information of 143 million Americans.

Spring Labs has raised about $15 million to date in seed funding, according to Pitchbook. Other advisory board members include Bobby Mehta, former CEO of Transunion, and Brian Brooks, chief legal officer at cryptocurrency company Coinbase. The company was founded by members of the team and board of lending platform Avant.

Cohn was a key player in drafting the GOP tax reform package, which was voted through Congress and signed by President Donald Trump late last year. He left the White House following disagreements over plans to implement aluminum and steel tariffs.

Cohn isn’t the first executive to go from Wall Street to the new frontier of blockchain. Former head of J.P. Morgan global commodities Blythe Masters is now CEO of a blockchain company, and Goldman Sachs alumni Matthew Goetz started a cryptocurrency hedge fund. Will McDonough, who was hired by Cohn at Goldman Sachs, is also running a blockchain firm called iCash.

While cryptocurrency has been a punching bag for some Wall Street CEOs, its underlying technology is widely applauded and some compare its potential to the internet. Others are still skeptical. Economist Nouriel Roubini, one of the few who predicted the 2008 financial crisis, told senators in a hearing this week that “blockchain is the most over-hyped — and least useful — technology in human history.”