The majority of Switzerland's Crypto Valley Association (CVA) board, including president Oliver Bussmann, have announced that they will not be standing for re-election next year. It is unclear whether this is related to a dispute over governance that has been rumbling within the association for the last few months.
Bussmann, vice-president Vasiliy Suvorov, René Hüssler, who holds the positions of secretary and treasurer, and board member Nicolas Schobinger announced on Friday that they would step down at the next annual general meeting at the end of January.
“We have been with the Association as board members since January 2017 and, after a rewarding two years feel it is best that the Association’s next phase of development is led with a renewed perspective. Having that in mind, we have made a decision several weeks ago not to seek re-election for our seats in the upcoming board elections scheduled for January 2019,” the four said in a joint statementexternal link send out to CVA members.
Since it was formed last year, the CVAexternal link has served as an international beacon for the growing Swiss blockchain industry in canton Zug and other parts of Switzerland. It promotes this blockchain industry globally, draws up self-regulating codes of conduct, liaises with the Zug cantonal authorities and lobbies federal ministers and regulators on behalf of its 1,000+ members.
But swissinfo.ch has heard anecdotal evidence of concerns that have been bubbling for some time in Crypto Valley about the future direction of the blockchain industry in Switzerland. This largely boils down to finding the right balance between promoting the potential social impact of blockchain and its commercial exploitation.
Rumblings of discontent
The CVA boardexternal link was recently expanded to seven members by adding María Gomez and Jenna Zenk in September. The addition of two women was specifically designed to enhance diversity at the CVA after the board had been accused of being an “old boy’s club”.
The other member of the CVA board, Soren Fog, raised the issue of governance during June’s AGM. He complained of a “conflict of interest in the leadership” and called on members to challenge this “in a sober and detailed way”. He also called for a code of conduct to address the issues of corporate governance, leadership accountability and for an independent audit.
Fog did not at the time go into specifics of what he saw as going wrong within the CVA and he was unavailable for comment on Friday. It is also unclear how many members share his view.
Weeks after the AGM, the CVA enlisted lawyer Hans Kuhn, a former general counsel at the Swiss National Bank, to conduct a review of the association’s articles. Speaking to swissinfo.ch, Kuhn played down the significance of his report, saying it was merely routine paperwork updating mundane processes.
“This a very young association that has rapidly evolved into having 1,000 members,” he said. “The articles of the association were no longer adequate. This type of housekeeping is done in any kind of association with this growth and scope.”
The four departing board members made no mention of governance issues in their statement. “We are immensely proud of what the CVA has achieved throughout our tenure, and we feel very accomplished having made a significant contribution towards development of the CVA from a promising start-up, to a lodestar for Switzerland’s vibrant crypto and blockchain space,” they said.
In an emailed response to swissinfo.ch after the statement went out, Oliver Bussmann added: "As the CVA has grown very fast since its foundation in January 2017 to more than 1,200 members, the necessity arose to adapt the association structure. That is why the board has proposed an independent governance review. Mr Hans Kuhn, who conducted the review, was commissioned by the General Assembly. The CVA has recently consulted the association members regarding the governance review report. We will present the result and proposed changes in the General Assembly at the end of January 2019."