Exclusive: Moonstone Bank further explains Gemini and Revolut ties
It’s been an eventful week for rural Washington state bank Moonstone, previously known as Farmington State Bank. It may have found little to be thankful for over the holiday season.
- Moonstone was listed as one of 32 banking partners in the Alameda Research/FTX bankruptcy filing.
- Alameda’s venture arm invested in the bank back in March.
- The investment valued the bank at $115 million, said its chief digital officer Janvier Chalopin in an exclusive interview with Protos last week.
- The valuation is puzzling to many, who see it as inflated compared to customer deposits (which were a mere $10 million until they ballooned in Q3).
- Janvier Chalopin’s father, Jean Chalopin, is chairman at Deltec Bank & Trust. It’s known for banking FTX, Alameda, and controversial stablecoin Tether. Jean Chalopin sits on Moonstone’s board, as well.
But revelations and rumors continued to swirl after Thanksgiving, with internet sleuths pointing out that Ronald Oliveira, the once-chief exec of Revolut, had departed from his CEO role at Moonstone after only eight months.
Additionally, curious to some was the role of Noah Perlman, chief operating officer at Gemini, as a Moonstone board member. Protos reached out to Janvier Chalopin once more to get answers.
Revisiting Alameda’s investment in Moonstone
Chalopin told Protos that former CEO Oliveira had departed on “very friendly” terms with the bank, but had informed them he was pursuing “an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.”
However, Oliveira’s LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily reflect this. It lists him as “self-employed” as a “consultant” in the Bay Area. Another board member at Moonstone and Vermont State Bank, Gary Rever, has been named as acting chief exec in Oliveira’s place.
Chalopin was asked whether Alameda’s investment gave the now-defunct-hedge fund any other benefits outside of equity, such as a named board member to Moonstone. Chalopin clarified, “Nothing at all.”
The chief digital officer said that Moonstone had sought out FTX/Alameda for an investment “around Autumn of 2021,” and “pitched a while after that.”
He said that Moonstone had gone to Alameda because “they’d invested in the Trust Bank Protego… also in Seattle,” and that Moonstone believed “they’d be interested in… our plans to bring tech-first banking for the industry in the US.”
Chalopin traveled to Alameda’s headquarters in the Bahamas to pitch the team. He said the process was “quite normal… they asked about our vendors we’d be selecting for compliance,” and whether the bank’s plans were scalable. “They were very much to the point and understanding [of] our value proposition.”
Chalopin also reiterated that Alameda’s investment was passive and that the “team believes in the company [and would] love the opportunity to buy” back the equity sold to Alameda Research.
Gemini COO hides Moonstone involvement
Numerous well-known financial names are popping up in associating to Moonstone Bank — from Alameda to Jean Chalopin to Ronald Oliveira. Less known, but still important, is Noah Perlman.
Perlman doesn’t list his board membership at Moonstone on his LinkedIn. He’s the chief operating officer of Gemini, a well-known US-based crypto exchange founded by the Winklevoss Twins.
Chalopin said it was “a positive for [Moonstone] to secure someone like Noah” to the board, mainly due to his “strong background in operations and compliance,” and his executive experience at a digital asset company.
When asked what drew the COO of Gemini to Moonstone, Chalopin replied, “The vision we have for the digital bank we’re developing.”
Moonstone seeks more investors
According to Chalopin, the embroiled bank is “definitely targeting future fundraising rounds.” While he’s “unclear… if [the Alameda bankruptcy proceedings will] have broader valuation implications,” he sees a future raise as necessary to acquire “the right engineering team to properly build our technology stack,” and “increase risk and compliance” hirings.
Chalopin emphasized that the bank had a chief risk officer from JP Morgan “implementing some monitoring that even big banks don’t have.”
Moonstone, he said, hasn’t launched any brand awareness — at least intentionally — but would start going more public “in [the] coming weeks.” Chalopin called Moonstone “a small bank with a big dream.”
However, Protos would be remiss to not point out that Tanya Thygeson, who has apparently worked at Farmington State Bank for decades and serves as its current president, was also appointed as an agent for the bank’s parent company, FBH Corp. It’s a foreign for-profit corporation in the US that bought the bank in October 2020. Jean Chalopin, chairman of Deltec Bank & Trust, remains governor of FBH Corp.
Questions remain for the Federal Reserve of San Francisco, which took over regulatory duty for the small bank this year, but seems to have glossed over Moonstone’s for-profit foreign interests.
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