Middlebrook and Villarreal O’Rourke both have been named 2018 Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and FinTech Trailblazers by the National Law Journal. Both Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys are profiled in the September 2018 issue of the magazine. Womble Bond Dickinson is the only firm to place two attorneys on this list.
According to National Law Journal Vice President & General Manager Richard Caruso, the Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and FinTech Trailblazers are leaders who “have truly ‘moved the needle’ in facilitating these new technologies and digital currencies.”
Before joining Womble Bond Dickinson, Middlebrook worked for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service. At the Bureau, Middlebrook helped develop the Direct Express prepaid debit card program for unbanked recipients of federal benefit payments. With over four million cardholders, Direct Express is the largest and most successful prepaid program in the nation and a model for how to engage financially underserved populations.
Middlebrook also helped the Treasury Department employ the EagleCash program, which replaced cash on military bases in war zones with a stored value card.
“This included providing kiosks so service members could easily connect to accounts back home and move funds back and forth safely and securely,” he tells the National Law Journal. “EagleCash eliminated the need for military bases to track and secure millions of dollars in cash.”
Middlebrook also worked with the Uniform Law Commission to draft the Uniform Regulation of Virtual Currency Business Act, which creates safety and soundness standards and consumer protection rules for businesses that handle virtual currency on behalf of others. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Electronic Payment and Financial Services Subcommittee.
Villarreal also comes from a background in federal government, having served as Senior Counsel to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Law and Policy. In this role, she advised the bureau on FinTech, artificial intelligence, and other advanced technologies.
As the leader of Womble Bond Dickinson’s Financial Regulatory team and co-leader of its Fintech team, she draws upon this background to advise clients on mission-critical compliance questions and risk management as well as state and federal financial regulatory engagement. She helps both financial institutions and technology companies navigate the evolving legal terrains surrounding technology implementation, application, and governance. Her work in these areas runs the gamut from conducting model and data usage risk reviews for new products to preparing submissions to regulators on some of the most cutting-edge technologies in the industry.
Villarreal O’Rourke tells the National Law Journal that she is working with clients on a number of emerging areas within FinTech, including alternative credit data and data sharing.
“There’s a lot of promise in using alternative data and models to help provide access to credit for those who don’t fit the traditional model,” she said. “The push is consumer-driven for an easier, more transparent process of data sharing.”