With less than 24 hours until the polls closed, the ENS Foundation’s directorship is quite literally a neck-and-neck race.
The only two candidates up for the role are Alex Van De Sande (also known as avsa.eth) and Seán Murray (also known as 3531.eth).
Alex Van de Sande helped launch Ethereum, co-founded ENS, and was previously an advisor for the Ethereum Foundation. Currently, he is the Public Goods Steward for ENS.
"I believe the role is mostly symbolic, as the goal of the foundation is to give a real-world presence to the DAO, but ultimately it must, by its own bylaws, follow the directives set by the ENS DAO token holder's votes," Van de Sande told Decrypt via email.
The Ethereum Naming Service (ENS) allows users to convert complicated crypto wallet addresses from a long string of numbers and letters to a readable URL, such as Decrypt.eth. The ENS Foundation exists to represent the ENS DAO when legal matters arise.
Brantly Millegan resigned from the position of director at the ENS Foundation in March 2023. He—alongside Nick Johnson and Kevin Gaspar—was a founding director but his position was thrown into uncertainty in February 2022 after controversial tweets resurfaced.
Besides bringing lines of code to the real world, the role’s objective will also clarify and distinguish between the ENS DAO, its foundation, and the developer team behind the project, said Van de Sande.
As for, Seán Murray, he’s the president and chief editor at deBanked, the creator of eth.photos, and an active member of the ENS community, among other titles.
"Twitter popularity can be deceiving when it comes to the ENS inner circle, of which I admit I am not part. I am essentially an outsider," Murray told Decrypt. "In that regard, however, that is part of why I am nominating myself. I would hope to effectively be 'the people's candidate' even though serving as a director of this particular legal entity would be a bit of a dull role bereft of any real power."
In Murray's application, he provided two conditions that would need to be fulfilled if he were to win the election: the DAO would authorize the foundation to "set up directors and officers insurance" as well as "the foundation to compensate directors."
Though the role is important, there’s currently no compensation for directors. "Being a director has been a small unpaid position that so far has done little," Millegan told Decrypt. "This is also the position for which there was a vote a year ago to remove me and which I won to stay."
He said that his resignation is not related to his previous controversy either, adding that he's "still bullish on ENS" and "on a practical level my resignation doesn't mean that much."
At the time of writing, Van de Sande is running away with the election with over 88% of the votes. Roughly 12% have abstained and only 0.15% voted for Murray.
Supporters of Van de Sande include Nick Johnson (the founder of ENS), Simona Pop, and Superphiz—all of which are in the top 15 for voting power in the ENS DAO.
His top supporter is Brantly Millegan (also known as Brantly.eth) who holds the highest voting power outside of ENS and Coinbase.
Voting is due to close tomorrow at 9 am UTC.
Only two candidates for ENS role?
Anyone who was over 18 could nominate themselves for the role but only two people did. Why? Besides the job coming without pay, it also comes with a heft of legal duties.
"The legal responsibility of a director of the ENS Foundation as stated in its Articles of Association is to manage the business and affairs of the Foundation as a member of the board," Patrick Daugherty, former SEC lawyer, Cornell School of Law Crypto Assets & Web3 professor, and Foley & Lardner LLP partner, told Decrypt via email. "Directors and the board must be mindful of securities, commodities and banking laws, rules and regulations to the extent that they apply to the Foundation, its business, and themselves."
Becoming a director of the foundation can thus expose you to legal risk and some may be put off by that.
"It is always reasonable to ponder carefully the possible impact of regulators’ views on one’s position and duties in business," Daugherty continued. "Regulators have armies of enforcement lawyers that they can and do deploy. So, it is especially important to obtain expert legal advice in this case."
The ENS Foundation is located in the Cayman Islands and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the SEC. That said, this doesn't mean that the governing body can't investigate the foundation.
"Saying a person or business is ‘off-shore’ or ‘decentralized’ does not make that person or business off-shore or decentralized. These are legal questions requiring extensive research and analysis," Daugherty said. "Variations of this structure are common for crypto projects. Without implying that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with this one, some structures are designed and executed better than others."
All things considered, the ENS Foundation is yet to be called upon to resolve legal matters since its creation in October 2021.