Coinbase Independent Directors Have Close Company Ties

Fred Ehrsam’s ties to Coinbase Global Inc. run deep: He co-founded the multibillion-dollar bitcoin exchange, was its president until 2017, owns millions of its shares and was part-owner of a company it bought last year.

Under Coinbase’s plan to tap the public markets, however, the San Francisco-based company classifies Mr. Ehrsam as an independent director, securities filings show. The same goes for Fred Wilson, another Coinbase director who owns a significant stake of the company.

That independent label allows Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, to assign Messrs. Ehrsam and Wilson to an investor-protection role that is required for every public company.

Mr. Ehrsam and Mr. Wilson didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Coinbase is restricted in what it can say publicly ahead of its listing, which is expected on April 14. The prospectus for its offering says its board has determined that Messrs. Ehrsam and Wilson meet the regulatory definition of independent directors.