In light of blockchain stock ledgers coming to Delaware, commentators and news outlets are starting to take notice. Recently, Bloomberg has covered the idea of stock ledger blockchain, as has the Financial Times [$$]. The core difference between any possible blockchain stock ledger and the existing system would be the likely elimination of the concept of fungible bulk. A blockchain, or at least some iterations of a blockchain, would allow a diligent researcher to potentially trace a “share” (or whatever one unit may be called) through each transaction, each wallet, or each address, back to issuance/mining/founding. This may not necessarily be an easy process–but as it stands currently, such a process is truly impossible. The “shares” held by, for example, a prime broker, are non-differentiated (hence the idea of fungible); they are not individual “units.” Blockchain share ledgers would have implications for “naked” short selling, corporate governance, securities litigation, derivative actions, and, relevant here, appraisal. As reporters are observing, blockchain may also reduce transaction costs associated with M&A activity. This remains a development likely to generate continued interest going forward.
As we have previously covered, Delaware has been considering whether to allow Delaware corporations (with Delaware being the site of the vast majority of appraisal litigation) to use blockchain platforms to issue and trade shares. As of July 21, that has become the law with Delaware’s governor signing a bill allowing blockchain to be used for the maintenance of corporate records, including stock ledgers. Blockchain is a concept of distributed ledger, as opposed to the centralized ledger system of DTCC. From JD Supra: “One practical reason for using blockchain technology to track the transfer of corporate securities stems from a long-standing uncertainty surrounding the property rights of investors who ‘ultimately have no identifiable relationship with the corporate issuers of investment securities’ that they purportedly hold.”