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Stamford’s newest crypto company had ties to Annie Lamont

Gov. Ned Lamont
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that a new financial services firm is moving to Stamford with the help of over $5 million in state financial incentives. What he didn’t say was that his wife’s firm had been an investor in the company.

Digital Currency Group, a cryptocurrency and blockchain technology company, announced plans to hire 300 workers over the next five years in order to qualify for future tax breaks. Annie Lamont’s investment company, Oak HC/FT, says that it was an investor in the company but that it sold its holdings earlier this year — after negotiations with the state were underway.

David Lehman, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, said he began communicating about Digital Currency Group with Stamford officials in October 2020. He also said he was made aware of Annie Lamont’s “legacy investment” in the company sometime after negotiations started but during that same quarter.

“I led the discussions, I led the negotiations with the company, and that’s our role at DECD,” he said in an interview. “So I was aware of the investment, but ultimately my job is to get good companies that provide good-paying jobs into the state, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re so excited here.”

A spokesperson for Oak HC/FT said the company sold its position in Digital Currency Group earlier this year and currently has no relationship with the company. Lehman says Oak HC/FT sold its holdings in April 2021, about two months after Digital Currency Group signed an initial letter of intent with the state about the move to Connecticut.

“The way I think about this is, they recused themselves,” Lehman said of the governor and his wife. “I made them aware of the conversations that were going on, but I led the conversations, and any decision making around incentives, for example, was with me.”

Lehman said he did not consult state ethics or legal officials because he was taking the lead on the deal.

Digital Currency Group did not return requests for comment.

Oak HC/FT and Annie Lamont have drawn scrutiny, after The Connecticut Mirror reported that another Stamford company received investments from the firm as it won state contracts for coronavirus testing services. The state ethics office said Annie Lamont was clear of conflicts, according to The Mirror.

Digital Currency Group has signed a lease with Shippan Landing on Stamford’s waterfront, where it plans to move its subsidiary blockchain companies into the 90,000-square-foot office by the end of next year.

Incoming mayor Caroline Simmons said Monday she hopes the company’s move to Stamford can help the city become a hub for cryptocurrency and other blockchain technology jobs, as DCG plans to hire about 100 workers in the next year.

“We’re excited to work with them to make Stamford the crypto capital of the country,” Simmons said. “We know other cities like New York City and Miami are at the forefront of this, and we think we have all the assets right here in Stamford.”

At least three other companies have recently announced relocations from the State of New York to Fairfield County.

“Attracting new investment and job creation opportunities to Connecticut is a top priority for our administration and today’s announcement is another indication that we are seeing results,” the governor said in a news release on Monday. “Digital Currency Group’s decision to relocate their headquarters here is the latest example of how Connecticut is the ideal location for leading-edge companies that are focused on business growth.”

Cassandra Basler is a radio reporter and editor at Connecticut Public. She has covered juvenile justice, the opioid crisis, immigration, social justice and inequity. You can find her reporting in New Haven and Fairfield counties. She previously worked at WSHU Public Radio and her work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Here & Now.