Second Ethereum Foundation Researcher Acknowledges Advisory Deal Paid in EIGEN

The news set off a debate on the social-media platform X about whether advising the EigenFoundation might constitute a conflict of interest – given the flagged risks to Ethereum from restaking protocol EigenLayer.

AccessTimeIconMay 21, 2024 at 5:05 p.m. UTC
Updated May 21, 2024 at 6:14 p.m. UTC
  • Dankrad Feist, namesake of the Ethereum data-storage method of "danksharding," disclosed in a post on X that he has taken on an advisory role at EigenFoundation, which supports the pioneering restaking protocol EigenLayer.
  • Feist promised that the allocation of EIGEN token he has received will not influence his positions on how EigenLayer should be developed.
  • Disclosure follows a similar posting earlier in the week by another prominent Ethereum Foundation researcher, Justin Drake.
  • The advisory arrangements have raised questions about possible conflicts of interest, especially with many blockchain experts flagging potential systemic threats to Ethereum posed by the emergence of EigenLayer.

A top Ethereum Foundation (EF) developer, Dankrad Feist, disclosed Tuesday that he has accepted a paid role at EigenFoundation, a newly created non-profit meant to guide EigenLayer, the pioneering "restaking" protocol that many skeptics have flagged as potentially posing systemic risks to the world's largest smart-contracts blockchain.

Feist disclosed in a post on X that the position comes with a significant allocation of EigenLayer’s new EIGEN token, though did not specify how many tokens he would be receiving.

The announcement comes a few days after another top EF developer, Justin Drake, also disclosed that he would be advising the EigenFoundation, with "a significant token incentive which could easily be worth more than the combined value of all my other assets (mostly ETH)," with a value of "millions of dollars of tokens vesting over 3 years."

The news set off a debate on crypto twitter about whether advising the EigenFoundation would constitute a conflict of interest, especially given how prominent Drake and Feist are at the Ethereum Foundation – and how serious many blockchain experts are taking the potential systemic threats posed by the emergence of EigenLayer.

The disclosures came after the crypto influencer Cobie used the social-media platform X, where he has 724,000 followers, to publicly ask Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin how he felt about "core developers or researchers taking life–changing $ packages from projects built on Ethereum to become 'advisors,' when those projects may have conflicted incentives with Ethereum, either now or in the future?"

That post came in response to a post by Buterin in which he wrote that he was "really proud that Ethereum does not have any culture of trying to prevent people from speaking their minds."

Some posters on X applauded the Cobie call-out.

“Props to @cobie for insisting on ethical disclosures and holding people to account despite the onslaught of toxic bagerholderism he gets in response...very few willing to do it,” said @lex_node on X.

Feist is a well known contributor to the Ethereum discourse and technology, so prominent that the technology of "danksharding" – a way of storing data at cheaper fees than from using regular transactions – is named after him.

"I am taking this position personally, not representing the Ethereum Foundation, and with a focus on risks and decentralization. I am therefore fully expected to take contrarian views on Eigenlayer," Feist wrote in his post. "I do receive a significant amount of tokens from this position. I do not believe that they will change or influence my positions on how the core protocol should be developed, but I believe that the community should know about this, so that they can keep me accountable."

Feist acknowledged that many skeptics fear "Eigenlayer will lead to a dystopia of dangerously designed restaking services," and that a "second type of risk comes from the additional load imposed on stakers by running restaking services," which "can lead to centralizing forces."

"I think Eigenlayer will be a major benefit to Ethereum, if it is done by someone with high integrity," Feist wrote. "I trust the current leaders are intending to do that, and I am planning to hold them accountable for it."

Drake noted in his disclosure that he pledged "to reinject all advisorship proceeds towards worthy projects within the Ethereum ecosystem, either as investments or donations," and that he also stands ready "to end the advisorship at any time, e.g. should EigenLayer go in a direction I deem to be against Ethereum's interests."

He also said that, given his "focus on restaking risks," one can expect his "default public stance to continue to lean critical of EigenLayer."

"I will try to make my criticism constructive, advocating for mitigations to risks like the erosion of solo validators and the intersubjective overloading of Ethereum consensus,” Drake wrote.

Another user on X, @themandalore9, wrote: “I applaud the transparency, but he was probably the biggest / most well known voice in the fight against LST's and restaking. I know he say's he'll stay critical, but money corrupts the subconscious in ways that you'd never believe.”

Edited by Bradley Keoun.


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Margaux Nijkerk

Margaux Nijkerk reports on the Ethereum protocol and L2s. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a small amount of ETH and other altcoins.