Usman M. Sheikh
Usman Sheikh is a partner in Gowling WLG's Toronto office. He serves as the national head of the firm's Blockchain & Smart Contracts Group, as well as the national litigation lead of the firm's Securities, Compliance & Investigations Group.
Usman was named in 2018 as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers" by Canadian Lawyer and in both 2020 and 2021 as the top FinTech lawyer in Canada by Chambers. Most recently, he was recognized in Toronto Life's The Influentials 2021 list, an annual feature that highlights Toronto's most influential people over the last 12 months.
As leader of the firm's Blockchain & Smart Contracts Group, Usman oversees a diverse team comprising more than 80 practitioners. Among the group's many accomplishments is the listing of the very first blockchain company in the world.
Usman's practice focuses on complex corporate/commercial litigation, with an emphasis on securities litigation, cryptocurrency litigation (Bitcoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies), professional liability claims and class proceedings. He also provides legal advice on blockchain advisory mandates, including cutting-edge token sales, cryptocurrency exchanges and others. His clients include Canada's largest banks, the co-founders of Ethereum, nine of the largest cryptocurrencies in the world, as well as several blockchain pioneers.
A highly sought-after thought leader on blockchain and distributed ledger technology, Usman has briefed the offices of several prime ministers, as well as ministers, on blockchain's disruptive power, and is regularly invited to speak to business leaders and at global blockchain conferences throughout the world. He has lectured at the International Monetary Fund and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, co-lectured with the heads of blockchain for Nasdaq and the TMX, and has also presented to the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, the Law Society of Ontario, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, and several other regulatory organizations.
In 2020, Usman is set to publish The Law of Blockchain Technology (Thomson Reuters).
In addition to blockchain, Usman's litigation expertise includes:
- Securities enforcement proceedings
- Shareholder activism
- Corporate governance issues
- Corporate transaction and M&A disputes
- Cross-border litigation
- Corruption claims
- Compliance matters
- Securities class actions
- Accounting & auditing matters
- Crisis management & internal investigations
- Market conduct/trading disputes
- White collar defence (criminal & quasi-criminal)
- Shareholder disputes & oppression remedy claims
Usman has served as counsel on several precedent-setting securities and commercial cases in Canada, including cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. He has appeared before all levels of court in Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia, as well as before a wide variety of administrative tribunals, including the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) and IIROC.
Prior to joining Gowling WLG, Usman spent four years as a prosecutor in the OSC's Enforcement Branch, including within the Insider Trading/Market Manipulation Unit. In this role, he investigated and prosecuted all forms of securities law violations, including the largest criminal case of insider trading in Canadian history, as well as a recent regulatory case of insider trading for which the highest sanctions in Canada were ordered.
Usman was appointed as the inaugural co-chair of the American Bar Association's Securities Litigation Sub-Committee for Canada. In April 2016, the ABA Section of Litigation honoured Usman with the 2016 Outstanding Subcommittee Chair Award, making him first ever Canadian recipient of this award. He formerly served as co-chair of The Advocates' Society's Securities Litigation Practice Group, one of the largest collectives of securities litigators in Canada.
Author of over 25 legal and academic publications, he is a frequent lecturer at the C.D. Howe Institute, the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law and Rotman School of Management, Osgoode Hall Law School, the Ted Rogers School of Business Management at Ryerson University and the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. In addition, he is a regular speaker at various continuing legal education seminars and conferences. Since 2019, Usman has also been serving as an Adjunct Professor with the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
In 2016, Usman was recognized by Benchmark Canada's Definitive Guide to Canada's Leading Litigation Firms & Attorneys as a "Future Star" in litigation. In 2018, he was distinguished in the 2018 edition of Benchmark Litigation's "Under 40 Hot List" and the 2018 Acritas Stars rankings. That same year, he also received the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) Legal Excellence Award, which recognizes South Asian lawyers who have achieved excellence in their areas of practice and exceptionally contributed to the legal profession. In 2018, he was recognized as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers" by Canadian Lawyer and also identified in Chambers FinTech 2019 as one of top three FinTech lawyers in Canada. In 2019, Usman was recognized as a Rising Star by Lexpert and also named in 2020 and 2021 as the top FinTech lawyer in Canada by Chambers FinTech 2020 and by Chambers FinTech 2021. In April of 2020, Usman was named both a Leading Lawyer to Watch by Lexpert, as well as an Acritas Star, once again. Most recently, he was listed as a Benchmark Future Star for 2020. In 2021, Usman was recognized in Toronto Life's The Influentials 2021 list, an annual feature that highlights Toronto's most influential people over the last 12 months.
Usman has completed the Canadian Securities Course (CSC) and the Trader Training Course (TTC).
Usman currently serves as a member of the Ontario Securities Commission Securities Proceedings Advisory Committee (SPAC).
Usman currently serves as the national president of the Canadian Friends of the LSE (CFLSE), the national alumni association for the London School of Economics and Political Science in Canada.
He also co-founded the Ontario Securities Commission Litigation Assistance Program (LAP), a pro bono program - the first of its kind in North America - that provides free legal advice to unrepresented respondents appearing in OSC enforcement proceedings.
Usman has also served as a director of several non-profit organizations, including the London Goodenough Association of Canada (LGAC).