Conflict of Interest Warnings as Ethereum Researcher Takes on Advisory Role

By Jody McDonald May 21, 2024 In Ethereum, Market Analysis
February 26th 2024, investor restaking his crypto assets on Eigen Layer system.

  • Eyebrows have been raised by Ethereum researcher Justin Drake’s announcement that he’s accepted an advisor role at EigenFoundation
  • The role “comes with a significant EIGEN token incentive” and has raised concerns about the influence of EigenLayer on the Ethereum Foundation.

Conflict of interest concerns have been raised over Ethereum Foundation researcher Justin Drake’s appointment as an advisor to Eigen Foundation—the organisation behind Ethereum’s new restaking protocol. 

Drake acknowledged the position entitles him to millions of dollars of EIGEN tokens vested over three years, “which could easily be worth more than the combined value of all my other assets (mostly ETH).” 

EigenLayer launched on the Ethereum main net in April 2024, and provides opportunities for ETH holders to maximise yield through restaking—staking the same tokens on multiple DeFi protocols. Over 4.1 million ETH is now re-staked on the platform and it is the world’s third-largest DeFi protocol based on total locked value at US$8.8b (AU$12b). 

The non-profit body behind the project, Eigen Foundation, launched its highly anticipated EIGEN token via an airdrop in early May.


Related: DeFi rides the wave of renewed interest in restaking

Drake’s Paid Role Sparks Conflict Concerns

In a comprehensive disclosure posted on social media app X, Drake outlined how the advisorship came about, what it means and how he’ll handle the proceeds of the lucrative gig—vowing to redirect funds back into the Ethereum ecosystem.

“I pledge to reinject all advisorship proceeds towards worthy projects within the Ethereum ecosystem, either as investments or donations. I also stand ready to end the advisorship at any time, e.g. should EigenLayer go in a direction I deem to be against Ethereum’s interests.”

A day prior to Drake’s post, crypto trader Jordan Fish, known as Cobie, had questioned Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin on the transparency of the blockchain’s core team taking “life-changing $ packages” from projects built on Ethereum. 

Drake said his role would be limited to researching restaking risks and advocating to mitigate those risks, and that his default public stance would “continue to lean critical of EigenLayer,” as he helped the project avoid issues.

As a researcher I feel I did too little too late with regard to liquid staking. This is an opportunity to not repeat the mistake with restaking,” Drake said.

Justin Drake

Related: Ethereum network rebounds, sees massive growth as ETH holds above $3K

Specifically addressing concerns that EigenLayer was looking to “corrupt” the Ethereum Foundation through his involvement, Drake said: 

Nowadays the EF is a large organisation with 300+ people. To my knowledge 3 EFers have a formal relationship with EigenLayer entities: one as an early EigenLabs investor, and two as recent EigenFoundation advisors. EFers are some of the highest integrity people I know and I don’t see the 1% of EFers formally involved with EigenLayer compromising their morals.

Justin Drake

Drake clarified the timing of his disclosure so close to Cobie’s tweet was coincidental, and that his role had been public knowledge since May 3.

Jody McDonald

Jody McDonald

Jody is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who specialises in writing about business, technology, and the future of work.

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