On November 24, 2015, James Levy received 40,000 ether from the Ethereum Foundation.
Worth roughly $35,000 at the time (and nearly $35 million today), the grant was an award for Levy’s efforts to create an early smart contracting tool, and one of many meant to encourage work on what was then another nascent cryptocurrency in a sea of alternatives.
But three weeks later, the grant was gone, drained from his wallet in what might be the largest hack of a single wallet in the history of the ethereum platform.
The result of a weak passphrase, Levy has been silent on the matter ever since. But now, in order to fund a new venture called TapTrust, Levy is appealing to the hacker to return the funds, and failing that, he’s turning to the community to implement what would entail a system-wide software upgrade, or hard fork, to do so.
Such an upgrade would rely on EIP 867, a proposal to standardize the process of recovering funds on the platform, one that has been a point of conflict for ethereum developers.
At times heated, the discussion around the proposal is tilting toward blocking all attempts for the EIP to proceed. Former EIP editor Yoichi Hirai even stepped down from his post as a result, citing legal concerns that could ensue from allowing the proposal to develop. And with the developer community in an uproar, the proposal has been frozen in place as the process for accepting code changes gets considered more intently.
As a co-author of EIP 867, Levy has found himself in the eye of the storm as developers expose concerns about the proposal – everything from lamenting ethereum’s governance structure as it relates to system-wide catastrophes to predicting that stakeholders could collude with such proposals ratified.
Levy’s move is indeed controversial, but he feels that going public with his story might sway the current debate.
“Particularly in light of something like a hack, it’s a very important issue for the community, and it’s one that, I think, the network and the platform of ethereum and the community, we need to figure out,” Levy told CoinDesk in an exclusive interview.
As adoption continues to rise, and ethereum is increasingly adapted for use in enterprise organizations, Levy continued:
“Ultimately, I think it comes down to, are we an economic system that lives outside the rest of society and the legal system? Are we totally separate from that? Or, are we somehow going to interface with these things?”