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The Dharma DeFi Dilemma: Is Uniswap Becoming More Centralized?

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • Uniswap's first governance proposal vote is underway.
  • DeFi community has questioned the motives of proposal submitter Dharma.
  • Two whales already account for over half the voting power.
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DeFi protocol Uniswap is currently undergoing its first governance vote but the outcome may give more power to UNI whales. This reduces its decentralized properties according to normal cryptocurrency standards.
Touted as a ‘huge milestone’ by Uniswap founder Hayden Adams, the first governance vote is underway for the leading DeFi exchange. The vote has been proposed by DeFi lending and trading platform Dharma, which is one of Uniswap’s largest token holders. The suggestion is to reduce the current proposal submission threshold from 10 million UNI, or 1% of the total supply, to 0.3%. Additionally, Dharma wants to drop the quorum threshold from 40 million UNI, or 4% of the total, to 3%. The theory is that it will make governance more accessible, but in reality, it may hand the reigns to just a couple of big bag holders if the number of tokens needed to pass a vote is reduced by 25%. The Dharma co-founder and COO has already appealed to other DeFi whales to join the vote:

Dharma Destroying DeFi Decentralization?

The DeFi community has reacted to the proposal, pointing out that Dharma is one of the largest holders of UNI so it would need only one other large delegate on-side to push a vote through relatively unchallenged. The other UNI whale is the blockchain simulation platform Gauntlet. As it stands, there are almost 98% of votes for the proposal, but over 60% of that has come from the two top delegates, Dharma and Gauntlet, according to a blog post by Uniswap Discord member David Felton. A screenshot showing top delegates by voting addresses shows that almost 30 million votes have come from those two entities alone. Felton is appealing for a ‘no’ vote to prevent a minority of whales from controlling the protocol.
“Lowering the quorum creates the possibility for situations like the DAO hack where malicious proposals lost investors millions.”

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Davids and Goliath

DeFi protocols cannot be considered decentralized if their governance systems are controlled by a minority of whales, akin to a board of directors or top shareholders controlling a corporation. DeFi Watch founder, Chris Blec, has previously questioned the motives of a number of industry protocols and their dubious decision-making policies. Blec claims to have been blocked by Dharma after pointing out how centralized Uniswap has become: https://twitter.com/ChrisBlec/status/1316023415602462722 He added that a company like Dharma with clear business interests should not have this level of control over Uniswap decisions, which should be in the hands of the users;
“If they want to join the club with Binance and Crypto.com, they should drop the DeFi label immediately.”
The governance vote is due to end on Oct 20, but it is already shaping up to be a one-horse race ridden by two whales.
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Martin Young
Martin Young is a seasoned cryptocurrency journalist and editor with over 7 years of experience covering the latest news and trends in the digital asset space. He is passionate about making complex blockchain, fintech, and macroeconomics concepts understandable for mainstream audiences.   Martin has been featured in top finance, technology, and crypto publications including BeInCrypto, CoinTelegraph, NewsBTC, FX Empire, and Asia Times. His articles provide an in-depth analysis of...
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