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Coinbase’s chief legal officer humbles himself before Pepe coin horde after newsletter provides incomplete history of meme

Paul Grewal, chief legal officer of Coinbase, speaks during the CoinDesk 2023 Consensus Festival.
Paul Grewal is Coinbase's chief legal officer.
Matthew Busch—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s chief legal officer, has a high-powered résumé. He went to MIT, attended the University of Chicago Law School, worked at Facebook, and was once a U.S. magistrate judge.

But not even his academic pedigree and star-studded career path could save him from wading into the maelstrom of absurdity that is Pepe coin.

On Thursday, Grewal posted an apology on Twitter to Pepe lovers, saying that Coinbase, the publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange, “screwed up.”

He was referencing a newsletter Coinbase had published on Wednesday. In it, the exchange provided an overview of Pepe coin and said, correctly, that the Pepe the Frog meme has been “co-opted as a hate symbol by alt-right groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League.” 

However, the newsletter’s author did not elaborate on how, since the meme’s co-option by hate groups in the mid-2010s, Matt Furie, the illustrator who originally created Pepe the Frog, has led a campaign to reclaim the frog from its association with hate speech. Moreover, in 2019, demonstrators in Hong Kong used the expressive amphibian as a symbol during pro-democracy protests.

Pepe lovers took umbrage at Coinbase’s incomplete history and launched a Twitter hashtag in response: #DeleteCoinbase.

“[The newsletter] did not provide the whole picture of the history of the meme and we apologize to the community,” Grewal said.

Coinbase’s chief legal officer is the latest to be sucked into Pepe coin mania. The memecoin, or cryptocurrency created as a joke, is one of the hottest on the market, and it has skyrocketed in value since its launch in mid-April.

Trading under the ticker $PEPE, it crossed a market capitalization of $1.6 billion last Friday amid the larger memecoin mania but has since tumbled to less than $600 million, according to CoinMarketCap. Despite its falling price, Pepe coin is now listed on some of the largest exchanges, including Binance and

Coinbase, which has regularly touted its transparency with regulators and lawmakers, has yet to list the token on its exchange. That’s why Pepe coin boosters took Grewal’s apology as an opportunity to implore Coinbase to finally let its users buy Pepe coin on its platform.

Gemini, also an exchange based in the U.S., listed Pepe on its platform on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Coinbase declined to comment on the company’s plans for listing the memecoin.

Update, May 12, 2023: This article has been updated to show that Coinbase has declined to comment. 

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