Ripple appoints former U.S. treasurer to board amid SEC fight

Brad Garlinghouse, chief executive officer of Ripple Labs Inc., speaks during a panel discussion at the Singapore FinTech Festival in Singapore, on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.

Wei Leng Tay | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Blockchain start-up Ripple said Tuesday it had appointed former U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios to its board, as the company battles a lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ripple said Rios, the 43rd treasurer of the U.S. who served under Barack Obama, would join its board of directors while it has also hired fintech executive Kristina Campbell, previously an executive at fintech firms Green Dot and PayNearMe, as its chief financial officer.

“I’ve dedicated my career to financial inclusion and empowerment, which requires bringing new and innovative solutions to staid processes,” Rios said in a statement.

“Ripple is one of the best examples of how to use cryptocurrency in a substantive and legitimate role to facilitate payments globally.”

San Francisco-based Ripple uses blockchain technology to send money across borders for banks and other financial institutions, touting its platform as a more efficient alternative to the interbank messaging network SWIFT. But it also uses XRP, a digital asset it says can act as a “bridge currency” for converting one currency to another in a matter of seconds.

Ripple has benefited from the surging interest in digital currencies like bitcoin. It owns most of the XRP tokens in circulation and sells a tiny fraction of its holdings each month. XRP is now up more than 500% year-to-date.

At the same time, the company faces a major legal headwind in the United States. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ripple, co-founder Christian Larsen and CEO Brad Garlinghouse with conducting an illegal securities offering that allegedly raised more than $1.3 billion through sales of XRP.

Ripple denies the SEC allegations, contending that XRP is a currency rather than an investment contract.

“Rosie’s experience in the public and private sectors provides an invaluable perspective to Ripple, especially during this time as the industry works to define crypto’s future,” Garlinghouse said in a statement.

“We are extremely fortunate to have them on the team as we continue our rapid international growth and to champion for regulatory clarity in the U.S.”

Ripple says customer demand for its cross-border payments network remains strong. The company was last privately valued at $10 billion and is backed by the likes of Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings, Spanish bank Santander and top venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

Ripple ranked No. 28 on 2020’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list.