What You Need to Know About DeFi: Decentralized Finance and the Law

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About This Course

Join NYCLA's Law and Technology Committee to learn how to prepare your practice and business, both technically and legally, to incorporate the new emerging technology trends -- both safely an efficiently -- to stay ahead of the competition.

The traditional finance market is centralized. Central authorities issue the currency that powers our economy. Centralized financial organizations, e.g., banks, control our assets. The centralization of authority and practice across the financial system has led to a potentially unmanageable level of complexity and risk. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ether and hundreds of others offer secure decentralized peer-to-peer trading without intermediaries. Unfortunately, cryptocurrencies have not decentralized the financial system.

So how will we move towards decentralized finance?

Using stable coins, decentralized exchanges and wallets to payments networks, lending and insurance platforms, key infrastructural development, marketplaces, and investment engines herald the decentralized finance (“DeFi”) ecosystem. DeFi utilizing technology implemented using a blockchain based ecosystem will provide the user with full control of their assets. It will add transparency, stabilization, and the efficiencies to global finance. Legal practitioners will work with regulators and legislators to surgically amend the law to address things like the legality of smart contracts and distributed autonomous organizations (“DAO”) which are the foundation of DeFi.

The DeFi market is tiny compared to traditional finance, but it has picked up its pace rapidly during the pandemic. The total value locked in DeFi protocols surged to over $2 billion. DEXs’s had record volumes and continue to gain market share on centralized exchanges. As this trend continues with more projects and financial dApps, we can expect to reach a genuinely decentralized financial reality where the traditional finance market is interoperating with digital assets and blockchain in perfect sync.

Ultimately DeFi will provide for censorship resistance, worldwide participation, and the elimination of trusted third parties within the financial ecosystem. As it matures, the underlying blockchain infrastructure will provide performant, inexpensive transactions/settlement, immutability of the financial contracts, and execution of smart contracts. DeFi will provide user possession of the private keys needed such that a user can be in full control of their assets without the need for a trusted third-party. The DeFi ecosystem transparency will support and provide price and market efficiency. DeFi will grow via the network effect, as the rise of innovation, performance and resulting participation will elevate a vibrant global ecosystem of financial applications.

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