The end of the travails of Tezos seem not to be in sight as the company known to have raised a record $232 million from ICO in July is mired in class action lawsuits. This is the third in a series of legal actions brought against the company for breach of securities law in the United States.
Prior to the indictments, the founders behind the ICO Arthur Beitman and his wife Kathleen had had a dispute with the Foundation tasked with managing the ICO funds. This internal wrangling has led to a lull in activities that has stalled the project and consequent distribution of tokens to investors.
This clearly has dampened the enthusiasm of investors of the ICO as it seems resolution of the impasse is not yet in sight.
The Breitmans were recently reported to have approached the Foundation for funds to pay for the legal cost of the lawsuits. This means that they are practically seeking to use the funds of the people suing them to defend themselves in court. This has further fanned the embers of controversy surrounding ICOs and brought to fore the need to have regulations guiding the crowdsale.
The Breitmans didn’t speak to the press so no one could ascertain their side of the story, but Georg von Schnurbein, who is knowledgeable on the governance of Swiss Foundation emphasised that the couple’s dealings on the ICO is concerned with their Delaware company and not the Foundation which they are bringing pressure to bear on to cover legal fees instituted due to the post ICO happenings in the company. He said the Foundation was at a risk of running foul of Swiss securities laws should they release funds entrusted to them for purposes other than that for which the funds were being held. The agreement signed between Tezos and DLS stated that the Swiss authorities in charge of foundations must approve any requests made by the Breitmans to make adjustments in expenditures outside the purpose of the ICO funds.
Kathleen Breitman was previously reported to have likened an ICO to a fundraising function in a veiled reference to the absence of extant laws guiding crowdsales. But Mr Stephen Palley, an attorney with a corporate law firm said that the Tezos ICO contractual consensus is conformable to securities law making nonsense of Kathleen Breithman’s assertions that an ICO could be likened to a donation.
The non regulatory state of the ICO space has made many developers and teams seem to bask in the euphoria of operating without compliance with any laws. This is the situation because there are no laws made yet in most countries that are ICO specific. Nevertheless, aside the natural tendency to try to evade or circumvent known conventions, it ought to have been apparent to operators of ICO that there are securities laws that could be applied to tokens to ensure that investors funds are judiciously used.
The imbroglio of the post ICO Tezos is a fallout of a system that is largely an uncharted territory to governments and regulators who are still waiting for policy makers to take a stand on how to streamline crowdsale activities of startup companies.
In the meantime, there has been calls by stakeholders for self regulation to stem the tide of controversies associated with crowdsales. This is essential to ensure that when the industry is regulated, that the effect wouldn’t be an overkill, as regulators are always known to apply extreme measures. There already are positive indications within the industry that are promising such as the revelation by sources close to the Ethereum Blockchain network that the platform has provision for ensuring that restrictions are placed on ICO tokens and released to the company team of managers in phases. If applied, it means that there would be no room to misapply nor misappriate the funds generated from an ICO as these funds are not released unless the specified terms of the contract are met.
For instance, the developers could be made to code the contract in a way that ensures that a company that have raised funds to build a bridge gets just 20 percent of the ICO funds. The conditions to get another 20 percent of the locked up funds would be to execute the project to a certain stage.
This has far reaching implications. It is believed that this is an aspect of the industry that regulation would have to insist on its compliance with time. The pro self regulation community are advising that companies utilize this feature of the Ethereum Smart Contract to install internal self checks on future ICOs. It gets even better, ICO specific escrow companies are popping up in a bid to be the bridge of trust between investors and ICO teams.
The Blockchain network may have been designed to be trustless. Everyday realities has shown that unless the technology is applied to full capacity, the human factor would always be the weak link of the chain.