Top 15 US Legal Crypto Practitioners 2022

Date: 15 Jun 2022

Karen Jones

Today, with the publication of the Top 15 US Legal Crypto Practitioners 2022, Citywealth celebrates some of the best crypto experts in the United States. They share interesting insights on the crypto world in the United States, talking about their background, going through what led them to crypto and discussing what the future may hold for the US cryptocurrency market.

Our Top 15 US Legal Crypto Practitioners 2022 is based on independent research conducted by Citywealth.

Congratulations to our Top 15 US Legal Crypto Practitioners 2022!

Arranged in alphabetical order (by surname)

Joshua Becker, Counsel, Pillsbury, New York 

Joshua Becker, Pillsbury

Joshua is a Tax attorney with over 10 years of international law firm and accounting firm experience. He counsels clients in a diverse range of tax, business, and private wealth matters.

His experience includes the tax and non-tax aspects of investment fund formations, private equity mergers and acquisitions, hedge funds, family office operational and investment structures, and real estate joint ventures and investments. Prior to joining Pillsbury, Joshua was a founding member of a multi-family office and registered investment advisor dedicated to blockchain and digital asset investors, founders, and entrepreneurs.

Lewis Cohen, Crypto Lawyer, Co-Founder, DLx Law, New York

Lewis Cohen, DLx Law

Lewis focuses his practice on the use of blockchain and tokenization across all aspects of the capital markets. Over a 20+ year career, Lewis’ experience has spanned everything from large-scale initial public offerings to the funding of start-ups, with a particular focus on securitizations and other complex structured financings.

Lewis has represented issuers, underwriters, banks and others on a wide range of transactions around the globe. With the emergence of blockchain technology, Lewis early on identified the important role this technology would play across the financial markets and virtually all aspects of the commercial landscape and committed his time to advising clients in this area. 

Dan Davis, Partner, Katten, Washington DC

Dan Davis, Katten

I became General Counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 2017 and crypto quickly became a key topic at the agency.  I had to advise the Commission and work with other regulators regarding crypto.  I became fascinated with the technology and the myriad of legal questions that crypto presents. 

The future is always a difficult thing to predict, but crypto technology will continue to grow and the industry and regulators will continue to mature. I think through actions in Congress, the Commissions, and the courts, this industry will stand on firmer and firmer regulatory footing and market forces will help determine which uses of crypto are most beneficial for the United States.  

Gary DeWaal, Special Counsel and Chair, Financial Markets and Regulation, Katten, New York

Gary DeWaal, Katten

When I joined Katten in 2014 to advise regarding derivatives, I recognized the firm already had the smartest derivatives attorneys on the street. I could add nothing despite my background and reputation. So I read the Satoshi Nakamoto white paper and because of my experience with computer programming as an undergraduate and as an MBA student in the 70’s, I was enthralled. I tried to learn as much about blockchain technology as fast as I could and the rest is history.

The Satoshi Nakamoto white paper is only 14 years old; the genesis bitcoin is only 13 years old. Decentralized blockchain technology is only in its early infancy and smart folks will develop more practical use cases for this remarkable technology in the future. And virtual assets are the fuel of this decentralized process – fundamental to the consensus mechanisms that allow the systems to run with no one in charge but everyone in charge. Many more innovations will come! Can’t wait!

Jason Gottlieb, Partner & Chair, White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement Chair, Digital Assets, Morrison Cohen, New York 

Jason Gottlieb, Morrison Cohen

Jason is a Partner in the Firm’s Business Litigation Department, and Chair of the White Collar and Regulatory Enforcement practice group. His practice focuses on regulatory enforcement, litigation, and arbitration relating to securities, cryptocurrency, commodities, futures and derivatives, and structured finance. 

Jason is the principal author of the MoCo Cryptocurrency Litigation Tracker, and was named to the National Law Journal’s inaugural list of Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and Fintech Trailblazers. Jason regularly advises U.S. and foreign companies on blockchain and cryptocurrency law relating to litigation and regulatory risk issues, and has been widely published and quoted in the media for his cryptocurrency and blockchain expertise.

Charles Kolstad, PCT Partner, Withers, Los Angeles

Charles Kolstad, Withers

As a math major in college, I was intrigued by the promise of blockchain and crypto. I have been advising on tax and other issues affecting cryptocurrencies since at least 2010. As head of Wither’s global crypto currency practice group, I am excited about what the future holds for crypto/blockchains/metaverse/AI over the next 10 years. The current market decline will end and prices will rise again. The use of blockchain outside of cryptocurrencies is just beginning.

What may the future hold for the US cryptocurrency market? One word: Regulation. Whether it is regulation by the SEC, the CFTC or the IRS, the future for the US cryptocurrency markets is increased regulation. This will affect exchanges as well as token issuers and other players in the crypto space. For those prepared to handle the increase in regulations, their market share will increase, and they will have greater access to Main Street investors. With an increase in regulation will come a need to focus on the privacy issues and data security issues arising from the increased KYC.

Stephen Liss, Partner, Arent Fox Schiff, New York

Stephen Liss, Arent Fox Schiff

What led me to crypto? It’s really been client driven. Over the last few years more and more of my clients have owned crypto assets. The future is now, and as an estate planner I need to understand the nature of these assets, how they are held, how they can be secured, and how they can be effectively transferred.

What may the future hold for the US cryptocurrency market? In a word, regulation. This is an industry that has gotten way out ahead of policymakers. I think everyone recognizes this is an exciting and dynamic industry. No one wants to stop the innovation.  At some point, however, there will be reporting and taxation requirements. We’re at the beginning of that phase in the US, but it’s hard to predict how quickly ideas will turn into laws.

Patrick McCarty, Of Counsel, Ruddy Gregory, Washington, DC 

Patrick McCarty, Ruddy Gregory

I got into crypto in 2017. I noticed that the CFTC permitted SEFs to offer swaps on Bitcoin and other crypto starting in 2014. CME and CBOE listed Bitcoin Futures starting in Dec. 2017. I started teaching a Crypto Seminar at Georgetown University Law Center starting in the Fall of 2018 and haven’t looked back.  

Highly likely that the US Congress will pass digital asset market legislation next year. This legislation will be similar to the Dodd Frank Act and swaps in terms of clarifying which digital assets are “commodities” – and under the CFTC – and which are “securities” – and under the SEC. The Lummis Gillibrand Bill is a pretty good road map.

Mark Ruddy, Securities and Commodities Attorney, Ruddy Gregory, Washington, DC 

Mark Ruddy, Ruddy Gregory

Providing value and relevance to our clients means meeting their needs.  Our clients identify where there are new trading opportunities and therefore dictate our involvement in markets such as the crypto space.     

Some much needed clarity in the US regulatory landscape is on the horizon. In March the White House issued an executive order on cryptocurrencies directing federal agencies to coordinate their approach to the sector, and since then bi-partisan bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that bring unified federal oversight to bear on digital asset markets in the U.S. Regulatory clarity may help generate a greater interest in the US marketplace since many exchanges and crypto participants to date have been unwilling to interact with the US market for fear of legal backlash.

Scott M. Sambur, Partner, Seward & Kissel, New York 

Scott M. Sambur, Seward & Kisse

Scott Sambur is a partner in the Trusts & Estates Group. Scott represents fiduciaries and individuals with substantial net worth throughout the full range of estate and transfer-tax planning and administration, focusing on the transfer of assets to beneficiaries at the lowest tax cost while achieving overall family and charitable objectives.

He advises clients on tax-effective strategies to shift both future wealth and existing wealth, using sophisticated trust planning, family investment vehicles, life insurance and charitable giving. Scott works closely with members of the taxation, investment management and maritime groups at Seward & Kissel to craft comprehensive solutions addressing clients’ family and business planning objectives.

Benjamin Sauter, Of Counsel, Kobre & Kim, New York 

Benjamin Sauter, Kobre & Kim

Benjamin Sauter aggressively defends clients in the cryptocurrency and commodity derivatives industries against high-stakes government enforcement actions. Mr. Sauter has represented many of the most important companies and individuals in this space in many of the most important enforcement matters over the last several years. Clients, ranging from major cryptocurrency exchanges to leading proprietary trading firms to company founders and executives, turn to Mr. Sauter for creative defense strategies when government investigations have festered or escalated and they are ready to adopt a more aggressive, trial-ready stance. In these representations, Mr. Sauter is often deployed in a special-counsel role to enhance negotiation dynamics with regulators and prepare for contested litigation.

Mr. Sauter also has an active asset recovery practice. He helps funds and investors design aggressive, outside-the-box strategies to increase leverage and monetize high-value claims. His bespoke strategies typically involve coordinating legal actions across multiple jurisdictions and mobilizing both public and private remedies. He has unique experience designing recovery strategies for the cryptocurrency industry, and filed the first-ever cryptocurrency fraud case freezing and recovering significant assets from an exchange platform. Mr. Sauter has received extensive training and multiple certifications for conducting blockchain analysis. Leading legal and business publications frequently quote Mr. Sauter as a thought leader on cryptocurrency regulation and litigation. He is a member of the Digital Currency & Ledger Defense Coalition.

Andrey Spektor, Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, New York 

Andrey Spektor, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

As an Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) in the Eastern District of New York for nearly seven years, and twice recipient of Prosecutor of the Year award, Andrey conducted nine jury trials, proving allegations of bribery, tax fraud, wire fraud, making false statements, and racketeering. He is particularly familiar with the health care, financial services, energy, securities, and technology industries, and has had significant experience in investigations involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), cryptocurrency, and financial crimes.

In his FCPA matters, which have spanned the globe from South America to Europe, Andrey, a native Russian speaker, has investigated and prosecuted cases resulting in multi-million-dollar corporate resolutions. He also co-led groundbreaking cryptocurrency cases, obtaining the first-ever judicial opinion in a federal criminal case that cryptocurrencies could be regulated by securities law. He has deep knowledge of professional ethics, attorney-client privilege, and the criminal and civil liability of individuals, having handled prosecutions and jury trials of white-collar professionals. 

Joel Telpner, Of Counsel, Sullivan & Worcester, New York 

Joel Telpner, Sullivan & Worcester

Joel heads Sullivan’s Fintech and Blockchain Group. He is a highly-regarded trailblazer in the fintech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency space. Joel’s clients’ size and nature vary from governments, top cryptocurrencies, and large enterprises to smaller startups, who describe him as a “very sharp and very experienced partner” who is “super pragmatic” and can “sort through the chaff and get to the nub of things impressively quickly.”

His representative client work includes advising the Marshall Islands in creating digital sovereign currencies, helping launch ndau, a buoyant stablecoin virtual currency, structuring for Gita Holdings/GreatX, a structured, principal-protected tokenized investment product allowing investors to obtain upside exposure to hotel room blocks in various hotel properties as well as providing regulatory advice to prominent blockchain projects including Aeternity, IOTA, NEM, and Celsius.

Amanda Tuminelli, Principal, Kobre & Kim, New York

Amanda Tuminelli, Kobre & Kim

I became enamoured with crypto because of the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of those who create blockchain tech and run cryptocurrency companies. It is rare for an idea to go from concept to reality in such a short time and with such transformative power.  Given its immense and growing popularity, regulatory grey areas, and the rise in fraudulent crypto related transactions, it has been an exciting time to be a lawyer working on cryptocurrency-related matters.

The government has already started aggressively regulating cryptocurrency and devoting significant resources to enforcement, and this is just the beginning. Moreover, the US is not alone in increasing regulation in this global economy where cross-border enforcement authority is not always clearly delineated. On the civil side, effective mechanisms for recovery and enforcement exist and we are seeing huge growth in successful asset recovery campaigns, demonstrating that traditional asset recovery methods can be repurposed and developed for recovering crypto.

Lance Zinman, Partner and Global Chair, Financial Markets and Funds Department, Katten, Chicago

Lance Zinman, Katten

As Global Chair of Katten’s Financial Markets and Funds practice, it’s critically important that I command deep knowledge of the cutting-edge new financial asset class, cryptocurrencies. Our team is industry-leading chiefly because of a unique selling point: 360 proficiency of the full panoply of issues that arise in financial markets. As a result, my team includes highly-skilled attorneys who have been trailblazers in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, having handled some of the most complex matters for over a decade.  

With growing interest in adding cryptocurrencies to portfolios of traditional hedge funds, PE/Venture funds and proprietary trading firms, Katten’s Financial Markets and Funds practice anticipates that we will continue representing the biggest players investing in and trading cryptocurrencies. We advise our clients on structuring, tax and regulatory considerations that are unique to digital asset markets. In representing proprietary trading firms and asset managers, we’ve provided the most comprehensive counsel to clients regarding the establishment and structure of cryptocurrency trading ventures.

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