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The Globe and Mail

CIBC withdraws as underwriter for Tapscott-led blockchain fund

The bank’s decision to withdraw came after a report by Forbes earlier this week.

CIBC World Markets Inc. has pulled out as an underwriter for a $100-million blockchain-focused venture capital fund led by Alex Tapscott, according to sources close to the deal.

The bank's decision to withdraw came after a report by Forbes earlier this week that said four people who had been named in marketing materials as advisers to the fund had not, in fact, agreed to do so. The fund, named NextBlock Global, is aiming to go public on the TSX Venture Exchange, and Mr. Tapscott is the CEO.

CIBC and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. were named co-underwriters of the deal in investor materials that were obtained by The Globe and Mail. An e-mail sent by CIBC to institutional investors on Friday said the bank "has withdrawn as an agent from the NextBlock Global Ltd. private placement."

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In an interview, Vinny Lingham, CEO of U.S.-based blockchain startup Civic, said Mr. Tapscott knowingly used his name falsely as an adviser in materials designed to market the fund.

He said he confronted Mr. Tapscott about the matter over e-mail recently and that Mr. Tapscott initially denied using his name.

"I got an e-mail from him saying 'No you're not an adviser. You never were. It's very weird.'

"Then I say, 'But I've seen the deck and my picture is in it," Mr. Lingham added.

Mr. Lingham said Mr. Tapscott then told him his photo was only used in an early version that wasn't widely circulated. Mr. Lingham says that he heard from "numerous investors" who received materials with his picture on it.

When reached by e-mail, Mr. Tapscott did not comment other than to say he would provide a response later Friday.

In a NextBlock Global document marked "final" and circulated to prospective investors, Dino Angaritis is listed as one of the advisers to NextBlock Global. Mr. Angaritis is identified as the CEO of a company called SmartWallet and described as an "early ethereum investor" and a "prolific angel investor."

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A photo that appears alongside Mr. Angaritis's description was confirmed by The Globe to be that of Luke Carman, a published fiction author in Australia, whom the Sydney Morning Herald deemed the Best Young Novelist in 2014.

"That's certainly me in the photograph - but I'm no angel investor," Mr. Carman wrote in an e-mail to The Globe.

"The image is an old promotional shot for my book An Elegant Young Man."

Mr. Carman added that he'd never even heard of Mr. Tapscott and said he was appalled his image was used in the fund materials.

Mr. Angaritis had agreed to advise the company privately but asked for his picture to be left out of the document, he said in a phone interview.

Additionally on Friday, the latest e-mailed version of the investment materials sent to potential investors revealed that Chami Akmeemana, who had appeared in earlier documents as an adviser "has decided to no longer act as an advisor." When reached by The Globe and Mail for comment, Mr. Akmeemana said he "stepped down due to other work commitments."

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Before transitioning to the blockchain space, Mr. Tapscott was an institutional salesperson with Canaccord Genuity between 2008 and 2015. After he left Canaccord he co-authored a book on blockchain technology and has presented at TEDx conferences on blockchain.

The fund, which is planning to go public via a reverse takeover of a TSX Venture-listed shell company, is aiming to invest in public and private early stage blockchain companies.

Dmitry Buterin, the father of ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, said he met with Mr. Tapscott to discuss the possibility of serving as an adviser for his fund, but ultimately declined. So he was surprised when some colleagues forwarded him the investment deck listing him as an adviser.

"I was surprised and contacted Alex, he explained it away as some mistake," Mr. Buterin said when contacted via LinkedIn.

A spokeswoman for Karen Gifford, another one of the advisers listed, said via e-mail that Ms. Gifford is not an adviser for the company and did not have a conversation about the opportunity.

Canaccord declined to comment.

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