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See detailDecentralised Finance's Unregulated Governance: Minority Rule in the Digital Wild West
Barbereau, Tom Josua UL; Smethurst, Reilly UL; Papageorgiou, Orestis UL et al

E-print/Working paper (2022)

Decentralised finance (DeFi) is a category of unlicensed, unregulated, and non-custodial financial services that utilise public, distributed ledgers like Ethereum. The Bloomberg Galaxy DeFi Index ... [more ▼]

Decentralised finance (DeFi) is a category of unlicensed, unregulated, and non-custodial financial services that utilise public, distributed ledgers like Ethereum. The Bloomberg Galaxy DeFi Index, launched in August 2021, includes nine Ethereum-based projects – non-custodial exchanges as well as lending and derivatives platforms. Each project is governed, at least in part, by a community of unregistered individuals that hold tradable voting rights tokens (also known as governance tokens). Voting rights tokens allow holders to vote on proposed changes to a DeFi project’s features, parameters, or rules. DeFi’s governance power is thus linked to the distribution and exercise of tokenised voting rights. Since DeFi projects are typically not managed by companies or public institutions, not much is known about DeFi’s governance. Regulators and law-makers from the United States recently asked if DeFi’s governance entails a new class of “shadowy” elites. In response, we conducted an exploratory, multiple-case study that focuses on the voting rights tokens issued by the nine projects from Bloomberg’s Galaxy DeFi index. Our mixed methods approach draws on Ethereum-based data about the distribution, trading, and staking of voting rights tokens, as well as project documentation and archival records. Our findings contribute knowledge about the entitlements of DeFi’s voting rights tokens, the initial distribution strategies, and the actual voting and delegation activity. Our principal finding is that DeFi’s voting rights are highly concentrated, and the exercise of these rights is very low. Our theoretical contribution is descriptive: minority rule is the probable consequence of tradable voting rights plus the lack of applicable anti-concentration or anti-monopoly laws. We interpret DeFi’s minority rule as timocratic and acknowledge its possible transition to oligarchy. [less ▲]

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See detailDeFi, Not So Decentralized: The Measured Distribution of Voting Rights
Barbereau, Tom Josua UL; Smethurst, Reilly UL; Papageorgiou, Orestis UL et al

in Proceedings of the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 2022 (2022, January)

Bitcoin and Ethereum are frequently promoted as decentralized, but developers and academics question their actual decentralization. This motivates further experiments with public permissionless ... [more ▼]

Bitcoin and Ethereum are frequently promoted as decentralized, but developers and academics question their actual decentralization. This motivates further experiments with public permissionless blockchains to achieve decentralization along technical, economic, and political lines. The distribution of tokenized voting rights aims for political decentralization. Tokenized voting rights achieved notoriety within the nascent field of decentralized finance (DeFi) in 2020. As an alternative to centralized crypto-asset exchanges and lending platforms (owned by companies like Coinbase and Celsius), DeFi developers typically create non-custodial projects that are not majority-owned or managed by legal entities. Holders of tokenized voting rights can instead govern DeFi projects. To scrutinize DeFi’s distributed governance strategies, we conducted a multiple-case study of non-custodial, Ethereum-based DeFi projects: Uniswap, Maker, SushiSwap, Yearn Finance, and UMA. Our findings are novel and surprising: quantitative evaluations of DeFi’s distributed governance strategies reveal a failure to achieve political decentralization. [less ▲]

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See detailChapter 8: Tokenization and Regulatory Compliance for Art and Collectible Markets: From Regulators' Demands for Transparency to Investors' Demands for Privacy
Barbereau, Tom Josua UL; Smethurst, Reilly UL; Sedlmeir, Johannes et al

in Lacity, Mary; Treiblmaier, Horst (Eds.) Blockchains and the Token Economy: Studies in Theory and Practice (2022)

Art and collectibles markets tend to involve lower liquidity and higher fees than public equity markets. Distributed ledger technology can tokenize artworks and collectibles, so that claims to these ... [more ▼]

Art and collectibles markets tend to involve lower liquidity and higher fees than public equity markets. Distributed ledger technology can tokenize artworks and collectibles, so that claims to these assets can be exchanged digitally without intermediaries. Tokenization offers investors access to a global market plus a digitized paper trail, as well as new options for the fractional ownership of artworks, art-collateralized loans, and yield-bearing art assets. The main challenge for tokenization researchers and platform developers is to simultaneously satisfy regulators’ demands for transparency and auditability as well as art investors’ demands for privacy. New technological solutions are required that enable market participants to disclose the absolute minimum amount of information that is required by regulators. We explore new concepts from distributed ledger technology, cryptography, and digital identity management that can help address this challenge. [less ▲]

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See detailDigital Identities and Verifiable Credentials
Sedlmeir, Johannes UL; Smethurst, Reilly UL; Rieger, Alexander UL et al

in Business and Information Systems Engineering (2021), 63(5), 603-613

Public institutions and companies typically employ physical credentials (such as passports, social security cards, and employee badges) to identify individuals. Individuals can choose where to store their ... [more ▼]

Public institutions and companies typically employ physical credentials (such as passports, social security cards, and employee badges) to identify individuals. Individuals can choose where to store their physical credentials, and sometimes, they can decide to whom their credentials are disclosed. These familiar privileges inspired a new type of digital credential called a verifiable credential (VC). Similar to physical credentials, individuals can store their verifiable credentials in a so-called digital wallet on their mobile phone, on another edge device, or in the cloud, and they can use verifiable credentials for identification, authentication, and authorization. [less ▲]

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See detailO'Dair, Marcus: Distributed Creativity
Smethurst, Reilly UL; Fridgen, Gilbert UL

in Zeitschrift für Urheber- und Medienrecht (2021), (11),

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