Tech Lawyer Preston Byrne became the talk of the crypto community when he revealed on Twitter that he was offered a substantial 13,000 ETH during Ethereum’s pre-mine phase. This revelation is particularly striking not only because of its dollar value—approximately $39 million at today’s ETH prices—but also for the ethical considerations that guided his decision to decline.
The list of early Ethereum contributors, hinted at by former Ethereum adviser Steven Nerayoff, has long been shrouded in mystery and speculation. On this list, Byrne elected to shed light on his personal experience. Contrary to simply declining the offer due to an allegiance—or lack thereof—to Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin, Byrne declined for reasons highlighting early cryptocurrency ventures’ moral and ethical intricacies.
“Pursuant to Our Arrangement”
Byrne talked about an email he received from Ethan Wilding, another critical figure in Ethereum’s history. The email, which discussed an “arrangement” that Byrne was unaware of, raises questions about these early allotments’ practices and quasi-legal nature. Byrne, who had never had prior discussions about receiving ETH, directed that his share be sent to Vlad Zamfir’s team, though it remains unknown whether this was ever done.
John Deaton’s Applause for Integrity
Lawyer and founder of Crypto LawUS, John Deaton, commended Byrne’s integrity and transparency, a breath of fresh air when the crypto industry grapples with questions about its moral fiber. Deaton, keenly following the ongoing trial against FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, highlighted Byrne’s revelations as an example of the professionalism and ethical grounding that still exist within the industry.
As a side note, Byrne disclosed his evolving perspective on XRP in the same Twitter thread. Initially skeptical, he is now “starting to warm up” to it as Ripple continues to push back against the SEC’s allegations.
Nerayoff and Byrne are not strangers to debates about whether Ether should be classified as a security. In his 2018 blog post, Byrne speculated on the possibility, leaning towards an agreement with financial services hero Gary Gensler, that Ether might be classifiable as a security in the U.S. However, he didn’t feel the same about the UK jurisdiction.
Byrne also touched on the ‘Decentralization Defense’ commonly used by cryptocurrency advocates. He argued that Ethereum’s decentralization might not be as clear-cut as many think, citing data and mathematical trends from the Ethereum pre-sale. Byrne emphasized the role of decentralization in assessing whether an asset is a security or not, indirectly questioning Ethereum’s current status.
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