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The Legal Relationship between Cryptoasset Investors and Intermediaries


Andrew Spink QC of Outer Temple Chambers and Hin Liu of Oxford University were recently invited to join the Tech Dispute Network’s “Need to Know Basis” podcast for an episode on the topical question of the legal basis on which cryptoassets are held on behalf of investors by intermediaries, such as exchanges.

It seems like everyone is a cryptoasset investor these days. The surging value of Bitcoin, increased legitimacy leant to the sector by the recommendations from established institutions, and the long hours the world has spent in front of its laptop without alternative distraction has created a booming market for digital assets, which has expanded beyond cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and led to mainstream adoption of formally niche products like NFTs. In short, all the signs are that, as and when dinner parties start becoming a thing again, there’s a fairly good chance that you can expect to have your ear bent about how digital assets are the road to riches and, what’s more, it might just be an investment professional doing the preaching.

However, it’s perhaps less likely (unless of course you are extraordinarily lucky in the dinner parties you get invited to) that discussion will move from talk of enticing returns to the somewhat less enticing legal basis on which cryptoassets are held by intermediaries for investors and, as a result, the nature of the recourse that investors may have vis-a-vis the intermediary if problems arise. This is an important question, because the majority of cryptoassets are currently held via intermediaries such as exchanges, which offer investors commercial convenience while also exposing them to risks, such as hacker theft. It is also a difficult question, with this being an area of the law that is in development and full of puzzling complexities.

Andrew Spink QC of Outer Temple Chambers and Hin Lui of Oxford University joined the Tech Dispute Network’s podcast this week to explain the key issues.

Listen to the podcast

You can subscribe and listen to the podcast on the Tech Dispute Network website.

About the speakers

Andrew Spink QC is a leading silk, a Deputy High Court judge and is the Head of the Business Department at Outer Temple.

Hin Liu is a lecturer at Oxford University, the author of academic publications on the topic of this podcast, and legal consultant to Fusang, Asia’s first fully licensed digital stock exchange.

Find out more

With barristers already specialised in key areas of relevance to cryptocurrency such as commercial dispute resolution, trusts, financial crime, financial services and banking and finance, as well as a a partnership with the Oxford Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab, Outer Temple is primely placed to become a key player in this developing area. 

To find out more about Andrew or our specialism in cryptoassets, please contact David Smith on (+44 (0)20 7427 4905) or Colin Bunyan on +44 (0)20 7427 4886 for a confidential discussion.

Barristers: Andrew Spink QC
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