FinTech Forum - Silicon Valley

Balancing Innovation & Consumer Protection

Financial Technology, or FinTech, refers to a spectrum of technology innovations and startups that demonstrate disruptive potential in applications, processes, products, or business models in the financial industry. As FinTech continues to develop and evolve, providing solutions to more facets of the financial industry, it faces a more traditional problem: balancing consumer protection with innovation. Unlike other areas of technology, FinTech requires a certain degree of fiduciary duty to their users - bringing questions of regulation, security, and compliance to the forefront.

GW Law's Center for Law, Economics & Finance held the FinTech Forum Silicon Valley at Plug and Play in Sunnyvale, California to bring together industry leaders, academic experts, government regulators, and legal scholars in the heartland of innovation to discuss the issues that arise in the search for such a balance.


8 am: Registration and Continental Breakfast

9 am: Welcoming Remarks

  • Neil Ruiz, Executive Director, GW Center for Law, Economics, and Finance

9:15 am: Plug and Play Overview | Video

  • Scott Robinson, Vice President, Plug and Play Fintech

9:25 am: The Current Regulatory Framework | Video

  • Obrea Poindexter, Partner & Co-Chair of Financial Services Practice Group, Morrison & Foerster
  • Kevin Petrasic, Head of Global Financial Institutions Advisory Practice, White & Case

10 am: Keynote Address - Fintech Innovation and The Regulatory Landscape | Video

  • Bill Tai, Kiteboarding VC & Silicon Valley Angel Investor

10:45 am: Panel 1 - The Challengers of Reconciling Innovation and Regulation | Video

Regulators and policymakers face a difficult balancing act. They want to protect both consumers and the greater financial system while allowing innovation to take its natural course. And contrary to expectations, sometimes innovators also seek out regulation to better understand the true conditions of their operating environment. Does regulation lend legitimacy to new technologies? What are some lessons learned by regulators that are being imposed on the Fintech forefront? How should the roles be assigned in developing standards and increasing interoperability? Should regulators take a proactive or a reactive role? What are some lessons and warnings to be taken from the international front?


  • Rachel Witkowski, The Wall Street Journal


  • Patrick Pinschmidt, Former U.S. Dept. of Treasury Official & Executive Director of Financial Stability Oversight Council
  • John Beccia, Chief Compliance Officer & General Counsel, Circle
  • Alex Acree, Managing Director & General Counsel, Fenway Summer Ventures
  • John Muller, VP, Global Payments Policy, PayPal
  • Bruce Wallace, Chief Digital Officer, Silicon Valley Bank

12:15 pm: Lunch Keynote Address - "How FinTech Innovation Can Help Provide Access to Credit" | Video

  • Brian Brooks, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Fannie Mae

1:45 pm: Panel 2 - Legal and Practical Problems of Security in a Fast Moving FinTech World | Video 

With each new development in Fintech, data becomes increasingly accessible. This accessibility comes at the cost - each new point of access creates another potential point of breach. How can Fintech companies find the balance between security and accessibility? What legal hurdles lie ahead? What is the role of regulators in finding such a balance? Who coordinates the international aspects of cybersecurity?


  • John Biggs, East Coast Editor, TechCrunch


  • Michael McGowan, Managing Director, Stroz Friedberg
  • Patrick Murck, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard
  • Kathryn Haun, Asst. US Attorney & Digital Currency Coordinator, U.S. Dept. Of Justice
  • Nathan Taylor, Partner, Morrison & Foerster
  • Kevin Petrasic, White & Case

3 pm: Panel 3 - Who is the True Lender? | Video

Fintech companies are quickly becoming serious players in the lending market. Whether lending through P2P platforms or other innovative methods, a partnership between Fintech companies and traditional banks are becoming common place. But to many, including the Supreme Court in Madden v. Midland Funding, this brings forth many questions: Which regulators oversee these new products? What state laws must these loans abide by? Where must the Fintech company be licensed? A major question must be answered in this relationship - who is the true lender?


  • Laura Shin, Contributor, Forbes Magazine


  • Jason Altieri, General Counsel, Lending Club
  • Conor French, General Counsel, Funding Circle
  • Oliver Ireland, Partner, Morrison & Foerster
  • Scott Wyckoff, General Counsel, CA Department of Business Oversight

4:15 pm: Panel 4: Who should regulate? State or Fed? | Video

Fintech is expanding into new areas faster than regulation can provide guidance. New areas of Fintech - such as insurance, wealth management, online lending, payment systems, and blockchain security - raise questions of who the regulator should be, and whether it should be regulated on a state of federal level. Even more established classifications are subject to uncertainty. Recent developments, both domestic and international, may reclassify Bitcoin from its current status as a commodity. Amidst all this confusion, who should regulate?


  • Heather Somerville, Technology Reporter, Thomson Reuters


  • Margaret Liu, SVP & Deputy General Counsel, Conference of State Bank Supervisors
  • Dana V. Syracuse, Counsel, Buckley Sandler
  • Joe Colangelo, Executive Director, Consumers' Research
  • Jeffrey Manns, Associate Professor of Law, GW Law

5:30 pm: Closing Remarks

  • Neil Ruiz, GW Center for Law, Economics and Finance

5:35 pm: Networking Reception

Speakers' Bios

Bill Tai is a Partner Emeritus at Charles River Ventures. He established CRV's Silicon Valley presence, and he backs Scribd and on CRV's behalf. Mr. Tai is a past investor in more than a dozen startups that made it to public listing and was a member of the Board of Directors for seven of the companies. He also founded/co-founded several tech companies, including iAsiaWorks, IPInfusion, and Treasure Data. Mr. Tai an investor and board member of the world's largest BitCoin company -, and the mobile app company Voxer. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the non-profit organization MaiTaiGlobal, and is a sponsored athlete in kiteboarding. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School and his BS from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Brian Brooks is the Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary at Fannie Mae. Mr. Brooks oversees the Legal Department and Government and Industry Relations, and also serves as a Senior Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Directors. Prior to joining Fannie Mae, he was the Vice Chairman of OneWest Bank. As OneWest's Chief Legal Officer, he oversaw the bank's far lending, corporate customer experience, and mortgage marketing and communications groups. Previously, Mr. Brooks was the Managing Partner at O'Melveny & Myers, leading an office of more than 150 attorneys, representing major financial services companies, and playing a lead role in crafting the banking industry's response to the recent financial crisis.  He received his J.D. from the University of Chicago and his B.A. from Harvard University.

Alex Acree is the Managing Director and General Counsel at Fenway Summer Ventures. Mr. Acree brings significant experience advising financial institutions and investment funds as well as senior leadership experience with early-stage companies. Previously, he advised financial institutions in issues ranging from reorganizations, capital markets transactions, Dodd-Frank Act implementation, corporate governance, and compliance issues at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. In addition, he's held financial modeling, budgeting, and business development responsibilities in a series of senior positions at early-stage companies. Mr. Acree received his J.D. from Yale Law School, his MBA from Yale School of Management, and a B.A. from Boston College. 

Jason Altieri is Lending Club’s General Counsel.  He handles all regulatory and legal matters with an emphasis on securities and banking.  Prior to Lending Club, Jason was the General Counsel and VP, Partnerships for Corefino, Inc., an outsourced accounting solution and technology provider.  Jason has also been a corporate partner for the international law firms of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C. and Sonnenschein Nathan & Rosenthal, LLP and he was an associate for over 9 years with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC.  Jason was named Best Corporate Counsel, Private Companies by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and San Francisco Business Times in 2014. He holds a BA in Economics from U.C. Davis, an MA in International Relations and Public Policy (China emphasis) from U.C. San Diego and a JD from The University of San Francisco School of Law.


John Beccia is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Circle Internet Financial. Prior to Circle, Mr. Beccia advised on bank regulatory, anti-money laundering, and corporate law issues serving as Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and BSA Officer at Boston Private Financial Holdings, Inc. He is also the Chair of the In-House Counsel Subcommittee of the ABA Banking Law Committee and serves on the Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group at the U.S. Treasury Department. Mr. Beccia earned his LLM in Banking and Financial Law from Boston University School of Law, a J.D. from Roger Williams University School of Law, and a B.A. from Providence College. 

John Biggs is the East Coast Editor at TechCrunch and an Advisory Board Member at TMM Industries. He is also the Founder and CEO of Freemit, focusing on bringing a streamlined alternative to traditional remittance and currency exchange systems. Mr. Biggs has also written for the New York Times, InSync, USA Weekend, Popular Mechanic, Popular Science, and Money. He also served as an Editor for a number of technology news outlets, such as Gizmodo,, MobileCrunch, and AOL. He received his M.A. from New York University and his B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University.

Joe Colangelo is the Executive Director of Consumers' Research, an independent educational organization striving to increase the knowledge and understanding issues, policies, products, and services of concern to consumers. Prior to joining Consumers' Research, Mr. Colangelo was the Co-Founder and Head of Sales and Marketing at Golden Coast Mead, a beverage company based in San Diego, and a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, leading post-merger integration for commercial clients and conducting financial and market analysis for civil clients. He served in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Officer, serving as a Surface Warfare Officer aboard the U.S.S. Germantown and U.S.S. Harpers Ferry. He received his B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Conor French is the General Counsel at Funding Circle. Prior to joining Funding Circle, Mr. French served as CEO of Indego Africa, an award-winning global women's empowerment organization which created employment opportunities for female artisans by connecting them to international markets and providing education in business management, entrepreneurship, and literacy. He also  brings corporate experience from his time at Latham & Watkins. Mr. French is a Truman National Security Fellow and currently serves on the Board of Directors of NYU Law's Alumni Association, the Board of Advisors of Indego Africa, and the State Bar of California's Financial Institutions Committee. He received a J.D. from New York University School of Law and his B.A. from Georgetown University.

Kathryn Haun is an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Digital Currency Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Justice, and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford University. Ms. Haun has investigated and prosecuted hundreds of violations of federal criminal law, with subject-matter expertise in cybercrime, FinTech, and the intersection of privacy and technology with security and law enforcement. She has managed complex investigations involving the FBI, SEC, Treasury, IRS, and a variety of other international, federal, and state bodies. Ms. Haun also designed and teaches Stanford Law School's first-ever course on Digital Currency & Cybercrime. Previously, she clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and was in private practice at Sidley Austin. She received her J.D. from Stanford University Law School and her B.A. from Boston University.

Oliver Ireland is a Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP. His practices focuses on retail financial services and bank regulatory issues, including consumer protection regulations, CFPB powers and initiatives, and all types of payment transactions. Mr. Ireland's practice also includes regulatory issues applicable to bank and thrift holding companies, national and state charter banks, federal and state chartered thrifts, and federal and state chartered credit unions. Prior to joining Morrison & Foerster, he served as Associate General Counsel to the Federal Reserve Board. He received his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, and his B.A. from Yale University.

Margaret Liu serves as the Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. With her extensive financial services policy experience, Ms. Liu serves as a part of the CSBS legal and policy team, providing legal support for CSBS and its affiliated organizations as well as representing policy perspectives of state banking commissioners. Prior to joining CSBS, she worked as a consultant on financial services policy issues for clients in financial serves and housing finance. Prior, she served as Vice President of Single Family Mortgage Business, Vice President for Industry Relations, and Vice President for Policy Communications at Fannie Mae. She received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and her B.A. from Harvard University.

Jeffrey Manns is an Associate Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. His teaching and research interests focus on securities regulation, financial institutions, and mergers and acquisitions law. Professor Manns serves a the Faculty Director of the Center for Law, Economics, and Finance (C-LEAF), where he oversees program development in business and finance law. He also serves as the Co-Director of the Business and Finance Law LLM program. Prior to joining the law school faculty, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and his B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Michael McGowan is the Managing Director of Stroz Friedberg and leads their AML & Compliance Technology Assurance services. During his time at Stroz Friedberg, Mr. McGowan has been resolving questions involving electronic data by applying digital forensics, statistical analysis, and investigative skills for over 12 years. He is an active consultant, regularly briefing executives, auditors, boards of directors, and regulators. Mr. McGowan has also testified on numerous occasions for both the government, notably as an expert witness in the Enron Barge trial, and private entities such as Facebook. He is a Certified Informations Systems Auditor, and received his B.A. from the University of Chicago. 

John Muller is the Vice President of Global Payments Policy at PayPal. Mr. Muller has witnessed the evolution of payments firsthand, with extensive executive experience in the industry. Before rejoining PayPal, he served as Vice President of Global Payment Policy and Vice President of Legal at eBay, General Counsel at PayPal (as the company's first lawyer), and Of Counsel and Partner with the Financial Services Group at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Mr. Muller has also served as the co-chair of the ABA Joint Subcommittee on Electronic Financial Services and the chair of the CA Bar Association Financial Institutions Committee. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his B.A. from the University of Virginia. 

Patrick Murck is a fellow at Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Mr. Murck is a lawyer and expert on bitcoin and blockchain-based technologies. He conducts research into the law and policy implications of bitcoin, distributed ledgers, and smart contracts. Previously, Mr. Murck was a Co-Founder of the Bitcoin Foundation, where he served as General Counsel and Executive Director. He was named among America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel for 2014 by the National Law Journal.  Mr. Murck serves as President and Member of the Board of Directors of the BitGive Foundation charity. He earned his J.D. with honors from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and his B.A. from American University.

Scott Robinson is the Vice President and Founder of Plug and Play FinTech, the financial and security focused startup accelerator in partnership with Citi, Deutsche Bank, USAA, Capital One, Intuit, Assurant, and other corporations. Mr. Robinson has been a part of Plug and Play for the past two years, managing a number of FinTech and Bitcoin related initiatives. He is also the founder of Plug and Play Bitcoin, and is responsible for Plug and Play's investments in 37 coins, Pavilion, SFOX, Bitwage, Purse.IO, and Blockscore among others. He received his B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles.

Kevin Petrasic is a Partner at White & Case. As the head of the firm's Global Financial Institutions Advisory practice, he advises domestic and international financial services firms on a wide array of issues arising under federal and state banking laws, as well as issues within the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mr. Petrasic has broad government experience, having served as Special Counsel, Managing Director External Affairs, Director of Congressional Affairs, Legislative Counsel, and Assistant Chief Counsel at the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Thrift Supervision and Counsel to the former U.S. House Banking Committee. He received his J.D. from Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. from the University of Delaware. 

Patrick Pinschmidt served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary and the Executive Director of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Prior to joining the Treasury, Mr. Pinschmidt served on the Congressional Oversight Panel on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) as a Financial markets Policy Advisor. He also brings private sector experience, having worked at Morgan Stanley as a Senior Broker and Exchange Analyst and at Merrill Lynch as a Senior Online Broker and Market Structure Analyst. Mr. Pinschmidt earned his MBA from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and his B.A. from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Obrea Poindexter is a Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP. With a practice focus on financial services regulation, she serves as co-chair of the Financial Services Practice Group, co-chair of the FinTech group, and heads the firm's mobile payments group. Ms. Poindexter's practice offers financial institution clients a critical combination of bank regulatory expertise and a deep understanding of financial markets. Prior to joining Morrison & Foerster, Ms. Poindexter was a staff attorney at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, where she focused on issues relating to electronic banking, privacy, and consumer lending and leasing. She received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. from Howard University. 

Laura Shin covers Bitcoin, blockchain, fintech, personal finance and career for Forbes Magazine.  She is a freelance writer who has published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and others, and the author of the Forbes ebook "The Millennial Game Plan: Career And Money Secrets To Succeed In Today’s World" and co-author of "Money Hacks: Forbes Stories Of Superstar Savers." She hosts the Forbes podcast "Unchained: Big Ideas From The Worlds Of Blockchain And Fintech." She also teaches freelance writers how to master the art and business of our profession at Ideas Words Empires. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honors from Stanford University and have a master of arts from Columbia University’s School of Journalism. 

Heather Somerville is a Technology Reporter at Thomas Reuters, covering startups and the venture capital industry. Ms. Somerville was previously a Staff Writer for the San Jose Mercury News and the Fresno Bee, covering national security, politics, education, the environment, and immigration. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Charlotte Observer, The Denver Post, The Seattle Times, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, and others. She is the recipient of the California Health Journalism Fellowship, the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, and the Berlin Capital Journalism Fullbright. She received her M.S. from Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, and her B.A. from Colorado State University. 

Dana Syracuse is Counsel at BuckleySandler LLP, focusing on regulatory, compliance, and enforcement issues surrounding digital commerce, virtual currencies, payments, privacy and data risk, money transmitters, and marketplace lending. Prior to joining BuckleySandler, Mr. Syracuse served as Associate General Counsel at the New York Department of Financial Service (NYDFS), overseeing the NYDFS's strategy regarding emerging payment systems, virtual currency, and blockchain technology. He worked extensively with other states, with organizations such as the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, to develop state and federal regulations and standards on emerging FinTech Issues. Previously, he has also served as an Assistant Attorney General at the Taxpayer Protection Division in the Office of the New York State Attorney General. He received his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and his B.S. from New York University.

Nathan Taylor is a Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP. His practice focuses on assisting clients in managing consumer information and developing practices to comply with complex privacy and information security laws. Mr. Taylor has a special emphasis on financial privacy and related issues impacting financial institutions at a federal and state level. He is a co-author of the leading financial privacy treatise, The Law of Financial Privacy, and a contributing author of the book Global Employee Privacy and Data Security Law. Mr. Taylor also contributes to the development of  the firm's Privacy Library and MoFoNotes subscription database. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and his B.S. and B.A. from Georgetown University.

Bruce Wallace is the Chief Digital Officer at SVB Financial Group and is responsible for their clients' digital banking experience and channel delivery services, delivery of fee-based products (including payments, cash management, cards, merchant services, foreign exchange, and global treasury services), sales, and development. Previously, Mr. Wallace was the Chief Operations Officer for SVB responsible for Global Operations and IT, and a Senior Vice President and Manager of Wells Fargo's treasury management operations. He is currently a member of the strategic advisory boards for FTV Capital and the FinTech Sandbox. He received his B.S. from California State University - Sacramento. 

Rachel Witkowski is a Reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to joining WSJ, Ms. Witkowski was a community banking reporter at American Banker, where she covered the CFPB, OCC, Treasury Department, and banks under $20 billion in assets specializing in the Southeast and California. She also worked at the Jacksonville Business Journal covering banks, insurance services, and public companies in Northeast Florida. She received her B.S. from the University of North Florida.

Scott Wyckoff was appointed general counsel for the California Department of Business Oversight by the Governor in August 2014.  Before his appointment, Scott served as supervising deputy attorney general at the California Office of the Attorney General since 2008 in the Employment section.  He also served as a deputy attorney general from 1999 to 2008 working in both the Employment and Tort and Condemnation sections. Scott also was an associate attorney at Cuneo Black Ward and Missler from 1998 to 1999.  Scott currently serves on the board of directors for the Sacramento Law Foundation's Operation Protect and Defend program.