Grant Shapps Resigned From Blockchain-Related Positions After Discovery Of Secret Pay Deal
It has not been a good day for Conservative MP Grant Shapps, who resigned from two appointments related to blockchain technology. The resignation came after it FT Alphaville discovered and exposed Shapps’s secret pay deal. The pay deal involved a company managed by a civil servant.
In addition to announcing his resignation, Shapps’s resignation from his advisory role in OpenBrix, he also mentioned that he would step down from his position as co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain, which he worked to found with another MP. Interestingly enough, Shapps’s stated that “I don’t want to overstretch myself” when asked why he resigned from his chairman position.
Worse yet, Grant Shapps’s resignation means that he will not receive the cryptocurrency tokens he was scheduled to and which are established to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. The tokens were meant to be in exchange for his role in advising startup OpenBrix before its public token sale, or ICO. Those who view Britan’s register of members’ financial interests will find the term “unpaid” next to Shapps’ MP role.
The slew of resignations bring about questions concerning the nature of rules governing intersection between United Kingdom business and politics. It also leads to issues concerning the role of APPGs in focusing on links between companies and legislators, which often go unnoticed. Currently, cross-party groups do not have status within parliament and as a result, APPGs can be seen as promoting the function of such groups, especially when they are funded by companies.
Business and policies comingled recently during an “extraordinary meeting” between Blockchain APPG, which focuses on “ensuring industry and society benefit from the full potential of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies” and the founders of OpenBrix.
At the meeting, OpenBrix members and Blockchain APPG developed a “decentralized property portal” to run on the blockchain. The hope is that the portal would be able to challenge Zoopla’s and Rightmove’s control over residential listings. Interestingly, the portal embraces a new and unregulated scheme for initial coin offerings and it is expected to raise around $25M by December.
To market the ICO, the parties are paying “Bounty Hunters” In addition, top investors will receive invitations to a “parliamentary strategy dinner.” The dinner received attention on Twitter after become atop tweet on OpenBrix.io’s page.
Grant Shapps is no stranger to controversy concerning his involvement in get-rich schemes. However, he was selected to participate on the advisory board as chair of governance. The role seems suited for him due to his enthusiasm for technology, shown by a recent speech, entitled “Building a Blockchain Britain” which he made at a recent conference.
Dismay Over Shapps’s Resignation
Shapps’s resignation has not seen very much support. For example, Shahad Choudhury, one of OpenBrix’s founders and civil servant, stated to FTAV that he was unsure why Grant Shapps felt that he had to resign. The MP contract did not require time commitments until after closure of the ICO in December. At the end of the job, Shapps would be compensated accordingly. The Financial Times had a conversation with Choudhury as well and he stated:
“I got a call from Grant today who had resigned and relinquished any tokens that he could have got. He told our lawyer Martin [Donogue], and Martin said I’m no longer to speak to you [the FT]” Further, “To be honest, he [Shapps] had nothing to do until after the things [ICO] . . . [h]is main role was the governance role after we’ve got the money. He could have quite happily not done anything and he’d still be governance chair.”
Choudhury also reported to the Financial Times that Shapps recently signed a consultancy contract and that he had fulfilled his contractual obligations, which entailed writing an article about the potential of blockchain for the property market and attending an OpenBrix event.
Choudhury also added that Shapps would be a part of an advisory board and accordingly, he would receive an amount of tokens “roughly comparable” to those allocated to co-founders. In total, the full value is about 2.8 million pounds, or $3.7 USD.
Shapps Resigning From OpenBrix Advisory Board?
Despite Choudhury’s statements, Shapps seems to be taking a different position. In an interview with the Financial Times, Shapps stated
“I stood down as APPG co-chair . . . I’m also coming to the end of my advisory period with OpenBrix and am standing down from that as well. So I’m actually standing down from all the blockchain stuff.”
There is no indication as to whether the APPG received a resignation letter from Shapps. It is also unclear what Shapp’s statement “coming to an end” of his advisory period really means. When asked by the Financial Times why he was standing down, Shapps stated,
“Because [life is] more than that. I just want my time back . . . I’ll be forfeiting all of that because I won’t be there for when they actually do the fundraise . . . I’m informing the registrar that my work’s finished on that as well – or my assistance. I’ve just known for the last few weeks that I’ve had to many projects on the same time, type of thing.”
Despite announcing his resignation from the APPG, he has yet to do so. If anything though, his position has been listed as an “unpaid” role and the MP registrar advised him to do “to the letter.”
Responsible For Introducing Blockchain To Parliament’s Attention
Even amid the current situation, Shapps would still like to be seen as the one who had introduced blockchain to Parliament’s attention. Three weeks ago, he stated to the Financial Times
“I started having to look at how many times it had been mentioned in parliament in Hansard and found there were five references. This was in September, maybe August later that year. And not only that, but in three of them, it was just people using the phrase blockchain but not about the blockchain – it was really odd! . . . it was kind of a really weird reference. And then the couple of other references were both to do with things like bitcoin and terrorists using it to subvert law enforcement basically. So it was all about not knowing your KYC stuff.”
Shapps has also mentioned that there were “literally 300 people” at the APPG evidence sessions. This is contrast to accounts by others and as the Financial Times noted, Shapps may have a “dubious relationship with actuality.”