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It seems that Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is seeking to buy itself some Bitcoin.
Jennifer Jacoby, an associate in the firm’s financial services and regulatory and government affairs practice in Washington, D.C., is on a leaked list of potential bidders for nearly 30,000 Bitcoins seized last year from now-shuttered online drug marketplace Silk Road.
The U.S. Marshals Service mistakenly made the list public this week via email, according to a report by CoinDesk, a website following the rise of digital currencies. The purpose of the email was to update interested parties on the guidelines for an auction that is scheduled to begin on June 27 for Bitcoins initially valued at roughly $28 million when federal authorities shut down Silk Road last fall.
Jacoby, a native of Bayside, N.Y., who once received the highest academic honor as an undergraduate at Connecticut College, did not respond to a request for comment on the government’s Bitcoin auction. A Wilmer spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter. (In an ironic twist, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who presided over his agency’s Silk Road probe that subsequently spread to ensnare some prominent Bitcoin supporters, joined Wilmer as an equity litigation partner in March.)
Wilmer itself is no stranger to crypto-currencies, putting together a webinar last September on Bitcoin and other emerging payment technologies.
It’s unclear whether Wilmer wants to buy the auctioned Bitcoins—now valued at $18 million—for itself or is bidding on behalf of a client. Others named on the list, which besides attracting the interest of CoinDesk also drew the attention of The New York Times’ DealBook, include financial services executives, hedge fund managers, a college professor and even an artist/musician.
The only other lawyer among the individuals and entities inadvertently made public by the Marshals Service—the agency apologized publicly for the error—is Jonathan Disner, a former associate at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius now serving as corporate counsel for Chicago-based DRW Trading Group. (Disner did not respond to a request for comment.)
Last month the SEC issued a warning to investors about “new concerns” created by the rise of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. In March, Wilmer senior associate Elijah Alper moderated a panel on potential Bitcoin regulation for the D.C. Bar Association. Wilmer, a firm known for bridging the gap between government and private business, has been mentioned on Bitcoin message boards as being “well regarded” in the emerging industry, which has attracted other Am Law 100 firms.
Davis Polk & Wardwell financial institutions associate Reuben Grinberg authored one of the first academic papers on Bitcoin in 2011 while a student at Yale Law School. He spoke with Bloomberg TV earlier this year on why the emerging currency needs regulation to succeed. (Bitcoin regulations are currently being mulled by an array of international, federal and state authorities.)
The Am Law Daily reported last summer on Katten Muchin Rosenman’s role representing Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss on their effort to create a Bitcoin fund, one that the “Winklevii” of Facebook fame disclosed in a regulatory filing last month will be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Falcon Global Capital, a Bitcoin investment fund, recently retained Thompson Hine to lobby federal agencies and Congress on the merits of Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.
And while Bitcoin might seem like a relatively new idea to most market observers, Ballard Spahr privacy and data security practice leader Mercedes Tunstall testified before Congress last year that the U.S. has a long history of accepting other virtual currencies.