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Mark Cuban-Backed Crypto Startup Injective Hires Legal Chief (1)

Sept. 3, 2021, 4:27 PMUpdated: Sept. 3, 2021, 7:36 PM

Injective Labs Inc., which offers decentralized trading services with support from the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has hired Sullivan & Cromwell associate Brandon Ferrick as its first general counsel.

Ferrick, who joined Injective after three years at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, said in an email he’s been captivated by digital assets and distributed ledger technology since 2013. The opportunity to “dive into the space and drive the discourse from the front lines” was one he couldn’t resist, he said.

He comes aboard as Injective prepares for new potential legal frameworks governing decentralized trading in the U.S. and abroad. Injective said it wants any changes to ensure that decentralized exchanges remain viable options for their customers.

“The biggest challenge for the digital asset space is precision of language,” Ferrick said. He noted that substantive laws and regulations can come only when lawmakers and regulators understand “important nuances in this nascent and complicated environment.”

The investment arm of Binance Holdings Ltd., the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, provided seed funding last year for Injective, a decentralized exchange protocol. Injective then raised $10 million in an April fundraising led by billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, hedge fund Pantera Capital Management LP, and cryptocurrency investment firm Blocktower Capital Advisors LP.

Injective also made headlines last year by paying $95,000 to buy a Banksy artwork from 2006—Morons (White)—that it then turned into a non-fungible token by burning the original. BBC News called the incident a “money-making stunt.”

Ferrick joined Sullivan & Cromwell as a summer associate in 2018. During his time in private practice, Ferrick focused on advising financial institutions on regulatory and transactional matters, while working alongside former Sullivan & Cromwell partners Ryne Miller and Jay Clayton.

Miller recently became general counsel for West Realm Shires Services Inc., operator of FTX.US, a cryptocurrency exchange valued at $18 billion in July.

Clayton, a former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, last month joined the advisory board of digital asset unicorn Fireblocks Inc. Earlier this year, Clayton became an adviser on cryptocurrencies to investment firm One River Asset Management LLC.

At Sullivan & Cromwell, Ferrick also handled projects related to NFTs and certain token offerings. Clients in that space include newly public cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc., the Winklevoss brothers-backed Gemini Trust Co. LLC, and Galaxy Digital Ventures LLC, a firm led by cryptocurrency investor Michael Novogratz.

Maxim Shen, a former quantitative trader at Blue Fire Capital LLC, which was subsequently sold to Galaxy Digital, has also joined Ferrick at Injective as the company’s head of financial markets.

Ferrick will have a lead role in Injective’s effort to help shape any government regulations. The startup is currently working with Sullivan & Cromwell, Fenwick & West, and other law firms on those efforts.

“My goal is to work with interest groups, lawmakers, and regulators to parse these important distinctions to ensure DeFi markets remain safe, efficient, and open to all,” Ferrick said.

Crypto Legal Shuffle

Ferrick is the latest in a series of lawyers that have flocked to in-house opportunities in the emerging digital asset industry within the past year.

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz recently recruited Latham & Watkins partner Miles Jennings to be a cryptocurrency-focused general counsel.

Other legal comings-and-goings of note include:

INX Ltd. – The owner of blockchain-based platforms for trading digital securities and cryptocurrencies announced Aug. 9 its hire of deputy general counsel Jonathan Blattmachr, a former virtual currency chief at the New York State Department of Financial Services. INX’s addition of Blattmachr comes after the company hired general counsel Catherine Yoon in May. Yoon was previously general counsel for Signum Growth Capital LLC and GB Capital Markets Inc.

Chainalysis Inc. – The blockchain analysis, research, and risk management startup, which hired a new compliance chief earlier this year, announced June 24 its hire of general counsel Sarah Ward from SiSense Inc., where she was legal chief for the analytics software company. Ward’s appointment was disclosed as part of a $100 million fundraising by Chainalysis valuing it at $4.2 billion.

CrossTower Inc. – The Jersey City, N.J.-based cryptocurrency trading platform, co-founded by former Schulte Roth & Zabel lawyer Kristin Boggiano, announced in early June its hire of Jeffrey Blockinger to be its first chief legal officer. Blockinger, a former legal chief at hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Inc., most recently was CEO for the Association for Digital Asset Markets.

Paradigm Operations LP – Less than a year after hiring Gus Coldebella, a former acting general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, the cryptocurrency-focused venture capital firm has a new legal chief. Coldebella had transitioned to chief policy officer prior to his departure in May, which is when Paradigm hired Reena Jashnani-Slusarz as its legal chief. She was previously a managing director, deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer at Elementum Advisors LLC.

Celsius Network Ltd. – The cryptocurrency rewards-earning and lending platform hired senior corporate counsel Ofer Ganot in August from DMG Entertainment LLC in Los Angeles, where he was a director of business and legal affairs. Celsius Network also nabbed two New York-based lawyers from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison earlier this year in general counsel and head of mergers and acquisitions Ron Deutsch and senior corporate counsel Joseph Golding-Ochsner. Celsius Network founder and CEO Alex Mashinsky has spoken with Bloomberg News about the fast-changing digital asset market.

(Clarifies reference to regulatory changes in third paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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