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Consumer Law Claims Against French Crypto Asset Wallet Provider May Proceed In California

Customer lists held by providers and the personal information
users enter to obtain digital wallets or set up crypto exchange
accounts are enviable targets for hackers. Such data can be used to
launch targeted phishing schemes and related scams to trick holders
into divulging their private keys or else unknowingly transferring
anonymized crypto assets to hackers. One recent case involves a
suit brought by customers who purchased a hardware wallet to secure
cryptocurrency assets and are seeking redress for harms they
allegedly suffered following data breaches that exposed their
personal information.

A recent Ninth Circuit decision analyzed whether a federal court
had personal jurisdiction over a foreign crypto asset wallet
provider, an issue that can be important when litigating in this
area, given the boundary-less nature of the world of crypto assets
and related services. (Baton v. Ledger SAS, No. 21-17036
(9th Cir. Dec. 1, 2022) (unpublished)).

In the case, plaintiffs bought hardware wallets to store crypto
assets. Following data breaches which allegedly exposed personal
information provided in relation to the wallet purchases (e.g.,
names, email addresses, postal addresses and telephone numbers),
plaintiffs brought suit against Ledger SAS (“Ledger”),
the French company that produced and sold the wallets and Shopify
Inc., (“Shopify”) the Canadian company that provided
e-commerce services for Ledger’s store, and its U.S. subsidiary
(collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiffs brought various
claims in California district court, including negligence and
California and other state consumer claims based on their
allegation that Ledger failed to exercise reasonable care in
securing their personal information.

In moving to dismiss, defendants claimed the court lacked
personal jurisdiction over them: Shopify Inc. argued that it is a Canadian corporation that
is not registered to do business in California and does not have
any employees in California and that the “rogue”
individuals who were responsible for one data breach of Shopify,
Inc.’s platform (including, purportedly, some Ledger customer
transactional records) were not employees of Shopify, but foreign
contractors; Ledger contended that it is a French company with no
California or U.S. employees. The district court granted the
motions and dismissed the action for lack of personal
jurisdiction over the defendants. The lower court found no specific
jurisdiction over Shopify simply because it provided a software
product that allowed Ledger to run an online store to consumers
worldwide, as it was Ledger, not Shopify, which made a conscious
choice to purposefully direct its product toward the California
forum. Second, the court denied, as “speculative” and
“unwarranted” plaintiffs’ request for jurisdictional
discovery seeking information about, among other things, the
existence of employees who may have worked with the
“rogue” contractors involved in one breach and the
alleged activities of a particular California-based data protection
officer at Shopify. As to defendant Ledger, the lower court
similarly found that merely operating a universally accessible
website alone is generally insufficient to satisfy the requirement
that Ledger “expressly aimed” its conduct to

The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the action,
affirming in part, and reversing in part, the lower court’s
findings on jurisdiction. (Baton v. Ledger SAS, No. 21-17036
(9th Cir. Dec. 1, 2022) (unpublished)). The appeals court found the
court had personal jurisdiction over Ledger because of its sales in
the state, totaling about 70,000 wallets sold to Californians,
generating millions of dollars in revenue. The court also stated
that Ledger’s website is designed to collect the applicable
California sales tax for buyers whose IP addresses are in
California. Taken together, such facts establish “purposeful
availment” because Ledger’s contacts with the forum cannot
be characterized as “random, isolated, or fortuitous.”
The court also stated that plaintiffs’ claims “arise out
of” those wallet sales since the personal information was
collected for e-commerce and marketing purposes. Still, the court
limited the potential universe of claims that plaintiffs’
putative class could bring based upon the existence of a broad
forum selection clause in Ledger’s terms that mandates
“[a]ny dispute, controversy, difference or claim arising out
of or relating to” the terms be brought exclusively in French
courts. The court held that the forum selection clause was
enforceable, except with respect to claims under California
consumer laws brought by California residents, finding such claims
could not be waived based on public policy grounds.

As to Shopify, the Ninth Circuit agreed that the present record
does not support personal jurisdiction, but held that the lower
court wrongly refused plaintiffs’ requests for jurisdictional
discovery and an opportunity to amend the complaint following such
discovery. The court noted that Shopify USA employs a number of
people who work remotely from California, and that apparently one
of those employees, at the relevant time, had the title of
“Vice President, Legal; Data Protection Officer.” In the
appeals court’s view, it is reasonable to infer that
Shopify’s Data Protection Officer in California “may have
played a role related to the data breach because he appears to have
overseen the relevant privacy policies and Shopify’s
response,” but that more facts were needed to determine
whether such activities supported the exercise of jurisdiction.

2022 saw a record increase in the number of crypto-related
hacking incidents
(one report found over $3 billion in stolen
cryptocurrency from January through October). Security incidents
have particularly affected decentralized protocols, including
cross-chain bridges and the smart contracts underlying DeFi, some
of which may have been built on imperfect code. These hacking
incidents are occurring during the enduring crypto winter downturn,
which has been exacerbated by recent high profile collapses and
bankruptcies in the industry. One would expect more litigation
brought by users against providers over crypto assets stolen by

Moreover, this case signals that crypto-related businesses
outside the United States may be subject to jurisdiction within the
country, notwithstanding limited contacts within its borders. Given
the size of the U.S. market, this may be a risk worth taking. To
minimize the risk, depending on the particular business, there may
be steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of such a

Consumer Law Claims Against French Crypto Asset
Wallet Provider May Proceed In California Court

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

Read More: Consumer Law Claims Against French Crypto Asset Wallet Provider May Proceed In California

Disclaimer:The information provided on this website does not constitute investment advice, financial advice, trading advice, or any other sort of advice and you should not treat any of the website’s content as such. does not recommend that any cryptocurrency should be bought, sold, or held by you. Do conduct your own due diligence and consult your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

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