As discussed in Part I of this series, state DAO LLC laws have been enacted in the last several years and have become one option for decentralized autonomous organizations (or DAOs) to create a so-called “legal wrapper” or real-world corporate entity to shield individual members from liability.
In Part II we will look at some of the standout features of the United States’ DAO laws.
DAOs as LLCs, or LLDs. As discussed below, the Wyoming (SF0038, codified at W.S. §17‑31‑101 through §17‑31‑116; Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed an amendment to the DAO Supplement into law (SF0068) (the DAO Supplement and its 2022 amendments) (collectively, the “WY Law”) and Tennessee (HB2645/SB2854, to be codified at Tenn. Code Ann. §48-250-101 through 48-250-115) (the “TN Law”), DAO LLC laws opt for the “wrapper” approach by “wrapping” DAOs within an LLC. Utah, however, goes further. Under the “Utah Decentralized Autonomous Organizations Act” (HB 357) (codified at Utah Code Ann. §48-5-101 – 406) (the “Utah Law”), rather than being wrapped by an LLC, limited liability decentralized autonomous organizations (or “LLDs”) are the legal entity formed under the Utah Law. (Utah Code Ann. §48-5-104). Under the Utah Law, LLD members enjoy limited liability and are only liable for the on-chain contributions that the member has committed to the DAO. (Utah Code Ann. §48-5-202). Further, members cannot be held personally liable for any excess liability after the DAO assets have been exhausted. (Utah Code Ann. §48-5-202(1)(b)). Utah further covers situations when a DAO refuses to comply with an enforceable judgment or order against the DAO by stating that members who voted against using the DAO’s treasury to satisfy a judgment may be liable for any monetary payments in the judgment or order “in proportion to the member’s share of governance rights in the [DAO].” (Utah Code Ann. §48-5-202(d)(2)). The Utah Law, in another effort to foreclose certain theories of liability, also explicitly states that a developer, member, participant or legal representative of a DAO may not be imputed to have fiduciary duties toward each other or third parties solely on account on their role, absent certain express actions or statements. (Utah Code Ann. §48-5-307). These questions have been more salient for DAO members, given the ongoing CFTC enforcement against the Ooki DAO and the recent California district court ruling that various governance token holders in a DAO could be deemed to be members of a “general partnership” under California law and thus potentially joint and severally liable in the suit.