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Crypto Firm Fireblocks Hires Sullivan & Cromwell Special Counsel

Oct. 13, 2021, 10:01 AM

Fireblocks Inc., a cryptocurrency platform backed by several prominent investors, has hired Sullivan & Cromwell lawyer John McCarthy as the company’s general counsel.

Yelena Osin, a Fireblocks spokeswoman, confirmed that McCarthy joined the New York-based company last month as general counsel for product, corporate, and global regulatory affairs. He reports to Jason Allegrante, who joined Fireblocks last year and earlier this year became its chief legal and compliance officer.

McCarthy, who was most recently special counsel at Sullivan & Cromwell, joins Fireblocks after it announced Aug. 19 its addition of former Sullivan & Cromwell corporate partner Jay Clayton III to its advisory board. Clayton returned to the law firm in February as a senior policy adviser and of counsel after spending nearly four years as Securities and Exchange Commission chairman.

Clayton is also a cryptocurrency adviser to investment firm One River Asset Management LLC. He told Bloomberg News in August that existing U.S. financial laws provide a framework for regulating the booming digital asset industry.

The SEC, under current chairman is Gary Gensler, is currently preparing its own potential regulations to protect investors pumping money into digital assets, according to Bloomberg News.

Fireblocks focuses on selling digital asset storage services to services to banks, financial technology companies, and large financial institutions.

The company’s recruitment of Clayton and McCarthy comes after it reached unicorn status and a $2 billion valuation in July following a $310 million Series D financing round. In March, Fireblocks raised another $133 million in Series C financing.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and the venture capital arm of SVB Financial Group’s Silicon Valley Bank are among Fireblocks’ existing backers, a group that now also includes Coatue Management LLC, Sequoia Capital Operations LLC, Spark Capital LLC, Stripes Group LLC, and other investors.

Fireblocks, founded in 2018, didn’t respond to a request for comment about the outside lawyers and firms that handled its fundraisings or have advised on other matters. Public records show that Morristown, N.J.-based Myers Wolin has done trademark work for the company.

In June, Fireblocks was sued in a Tel Aviv district court by a Swiss cryptocurrency company claiming it lost $75 million in cryptocurrencies entrusted to the startup. Fireblocks has denied wrongdoing in that matter.

Crypto Pipeline

McCarthy is the latest lawyer to leave Sullivan & Cromwell for a cryptocurrency job.

In September, Injective Labs Inc., a decentralized financial services company backed by billionaire technology entrepreneur Mark Cuban, hired its first general counsel in former Sullivan & Cromwell associate Brandon Ferrick.

Ferrick’s move followed that of Ryne Miller, a former co-chair of Sullivan & Cromwell’s commodities, futures, and derivatives practice who in August was named general counsel for West Realm Shires Services Inc. The company operates FTX.US, a cryptocurrency exchange valued at $18 billion in July after a $900 million Series B fundraising.

Miller succeeded Daniel Friedberg, a former Fenwick & West partner and Seattle-based chair of the firm’s payments practice, who was hired by FTX last year as its legal chief. Friedberg is now chief compliance officer for the Hong Kong-based exchange, which in August also reeled in Reed Smith banking associate Trevor Levine as an associate counsel in New York.

FTX added another associate counsel, Karista Vaeth, in September after she spent the past three-and-a-half years as an assistant general counsel for the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. in Jersey City, N.J.

Fireblocks itself recently listed a job opening for a commercial counsel role in New York. Allegrante, now the top in-house lawyer at Fireblocks, was promoted a year ago this month to head regulatory counsel and compliance chief.

Allegrante has previously worked as a financial regulatory associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and Linklaters, in addition to holding in-house jobs at Forex Capital Markets, Morgan Stanley, Noble Markets, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Prior to joining Fireblocks as a consulting counsel in 2020, Allegrante spent a year as general counsel for the San Juan Mercantile Bank & Trust International Corp., a Puerto Rico-based financial institution catering to cryptocurrency traders.

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

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