On July 12, 2023, U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) proposed a revised version of their previously introduced crypto regulation bill to create better safeguards for the crypto industry generally while adding new, stronger consumer protection provisions and AML provisions. The Lummis-Gillibrand bill, also known as the Responsible Financial Innovation Act (“RFIA”), identifies the need for enhanced regulation of digital assets. The proposal addresses this need, in part, by creating clearly defined regulatory roles for the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), which are two of the leading regulatory bodies currently engaged in regulating the U.S. crypto market, as well as creating a new Customer Protection and Market Integrity Authority self-regulatory organization. The need for greater clarity in the roles of the CFTC and the SEC and with respect to cryptocurrency regulations generally is certainly timely, given the recent CFTC actions against Blockratize, bZeroX (and its successor Ooki DAO), and others and recent high-profile SEC actions against major crypto exchanges.
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.
Little-known legal trivia: In 1977 Wyoming was the first state to pioneer the LLC, which is now a commonly applied legal innovation. Fast forward more than forty years…in July 2021, Wyoming again tried to be at the vanguard of new corporate formations and passed legislation that recognized decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, as legally distinct business entities, with protections for token holders similar to those offered to corporation stockholders or limited liability company members. Wyoming may have jumped off the blocks first, but Tennessee and Utah are not far behind. Recently, on March 1, 2023, the Utah Legislature passed HB 357 (codified at Utah Code Ann. §48-5-101-406), the “Utah Decentralized Autonomous Organizations Act” (the “Utah Law”).
This article is Part I of a two-part article on developments in state DAO LLC laws. In this part, we will briefly outline the basics of a DAO and the latest state enactments in the area, as well as explain why real-world corporate formations may be attractive for some DAO members. In Part II, we will do a deep dive into the more notable aspects of the new crop of state DAO LLC laws and offer some final thoughts.
This blog post summarizes recent federal bills that have been introduced (but not yet passed), proposals by the Biden Administration, and guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service with respect to the taxation of digital assets.
Both the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and leader of the SEC agree that the crypto markets need regulating, and specific rules may help clarify which agency has authority to regulate various cryptocurrency activities. The client alert below discusses both CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam’s comments and SEC…
As we highlighted in our recent Practical Law Practice Note, Smart Contracts: Best Practices, various state lawmakers are paving the way for widespread use of blockchains and smart contracts in commerce. For example, on January 1, 2020, the Illinois Blockchain Technology Act (BTA) went into effect, resolving some legal uncertainties around the legal status of blockchains and smart contracts in Illinois.
“Smart Contracts,” as defined by the BTA, are contracts stored as electronic records which are verified by the use of a blockchain. Smart Contracts can be deployed in a variety of legal and non-legal contexts, ranging from car rentals to supply chain management. However, one question that has loomed over smart contracts is how courts will review their enforceability, given that smart contracts may not resemble typical, written agreements. Some legislatures, and now Illinois, have sought to address this issue head-on, rather than waiting for courts to decide.
The BTA provides four permitted uses for blockchain and smart contracts:
- A smart contract, record, or signature may not be denied legal effect or enforceability solely because a blockchain was used to create, store, or verify the smart contract, record, or signature.
- In a proceeding, evidence of a smart contract, record, or signature must not be excluded solely because a blockchain was used to create, store, or verify the smart contract, record, or signature.
- If a law requires a record to be in writing, submission of a blockchain which electronically contains the record satisfies the law.
- If a law requires a signature, submission of a blockchain which electronically contains the signature or verifies the intent of a person to provide the signature satisfies the law.
In effect, these permitted uses prevent a court from denying smart contracts contractual or evidentiary effect solely by virtue of their status as a smart contract or electronic record stored on a blockchain, though courts will still have to review on a case by case basis. Tennessee and Arizona, among other states, passed similar legislation regarding contractual enforceability of smart contracts. Vermont passed a similar law handling the evidentiary effect of digital records such as smart contracts. Wyoming has also been active in adopting regulations related to digital assets, smart contracts, and blockchains.
Proskauer authored an in-depth Practice Note published by Practical Law, which details best practices for the use of smart contracts on blockchains. It discusses functional and legal considerations for both standalone smart contracts and smart contracts used in conjunction with traditional written contracts (hybrid smart contracts) and explores the…
Utah’s governor recently signed into law H.B. 378, which created a sandbox program for companies providing “innovative financial products or services” in the state. The program, run by Utah’s Department of Commerce, requires companies to apply and meet certain requirements in order to participate in the sandbox. Importantly, H.B.…