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This is a set of governance guidelines for the Corda Network Foundation. It provides a framework for the Foundation’s Board, to steer and govern Corda Network effectively to realise its potential. It is not a set of binding legal obligations.
1 Background to Corda and the Network
Corda allows multiple independent applications and private networks to coexist, each with their own business models and membership criteria, yet linked by the same underlying network (‘Corda Network’). This Network enables interoperability, the exchange of data or assets via a secure, efficient ‘internet layer’, in a way that isn’t possible with competing permissioned distributed ledger technologies or legacy systems.
Corda Network operates the protocol of Corda currently, and is always expected to. The protocol is currently specified in the Corda Open Source Project codebase, but later may be formalised in a protocol specification document, which then will become canonical.
1.1 Reason for a Corda Network Foundation
R3 has set up and governs by default Corda Network currently (along with Corda). This includes making key decisions around establishing, maintaining and updating standards, policies, and procedures for participation in, and use of, Corda Network.
However, it is critically important that a commercial entity should not control Corda Network going forwards. It should be governed transparently (to its Participants), with a fair and stable structure. Analysis and feedback show that Corda Network will be most effectively governed via a Foundation, a not-for-profit, independent entity in which Network Participants elect, and can be elected to, a governing Board.
A Foundation will enable Network Participants to be involved with, and also understand, how decisions are made (including around issues of identity and permission), building trust and engagement from a wide range of stakeholders. This will bring about the best decisions and outcomes for the Network’s long-term success.
In other words, to achieve the community’s objective of Corda ubiquity, it is necessary to put in place a governance structure which explicitly limits R3’s control of Corda Network, and enables this ubiquity.
2 The Corda Network Foundation
2.1 Mission and Values
Following on from the Corda introduction and technical white papers, we see the mission of the Corda Network Foundation to achieve the vision of Corda - whereby the state of transactions and agreements of business partners can be recorded in a single global database, ending the need for costly reconciliation and error correction, while maintaining privacy. Further details of the vision are laid out in the Corda Introductory White Paper from 2018.
Achieving this vision in its full ubiquity will involve running and maintaining a stable and secure Network with open and fair governance, while also promoting the Network so as to ensure its more widespread use.
Following on this, the Corda Network Foundation shall embody the following qualities in executing its mission:
- Fairness and openness – Participants can join the Network and make up the Network’s governing board, elected through a straightforward voting process.
- Democracy and transparency – Key decisions and rationale are shared openly with Participants.
- Stability (with a long-term view) with flexibility – Board directors’ terms will last three years with a staggered board, and the governance model will be flexible to adapt where required.
- Efficiency – Staying a lean organisation, sufficient to commission and monitor an Operator to run any services, physical infrastructure, or operational processes that may be needed to achieve the vision of Corda. Provide adequate support, through advisory committees.
- Cost effectiveness - Funding received through participation fees pays for an Operator to run the Network securely, and the Foundation shall not be a profit-making entity.
- Independence – Corda Network Foundation makes its own decisions (within the law), and is not following another entity’s rules.
More specifically, the Foundation shall focus on the following commitments over the long-term:
- Maintain the long-term standards, services and open governance model of the Network, ensuring it continues to be updated to the current Corda protocol version.
- Hold the Trust Root for the Network, used for creation of operational certificates, independently of the Operator.
- Commission the provision and operation of infrastructure and services for the Network, both of technical services, and infrastructure needed for meetings, events and collaborative discussions, and provide structure around the business and technical governance of the Network.
- Facilitate a diverse and vibrant community of industry experts, Corda contributors, users and services, including developers, service and solution providers and end users.
- Set minimum standards for the external provision of notary and oracle services.
- Enable the ubiquity and utility of Corda throughout all applicable industries and commercial use cases.
- Balance the divergent interests of a wide range of stakeholders, including business network operators, Corda customers, open source developers, and R3’s shareholders.
2.2 Structure of the Foundation
The Foundation shall be a not-for-profit entity created exclusively to execute the mission set out in this Constitution. With the advice of international lawyers, this is a ‘Stichting’ domiciled in Holland – a legal entity suited for governance activities, able to act commercially, with limited liability but no shareholders, capital or dividends.
The Foundation is defined in a set of Articles of Association and By-laws.
The Foundation governance bodies shall include:
- A Governing Board (‘the Board’) of 11 representatives (‘Directors’) with privileges and responsibilities as set out in section 3.
- A Technical Advisory Committee (‘the TAC’), comprised of representatives of Participant organisations with responsibilities set out in section 6.2.
- A Governance Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives of Participant organisations with responsibilities set out in section 6.3.
- A Network Operator (‘the Operator’), charging the Foundation reasonable costs for providing network and administration services, paid by the Foundation through membership funds, and accountable directly to the Board, set out in section 7.
Operating on behalf of:
- A General Membership (‘the Participant Community’), which is open to any organisation participating in Corda Network, and with privileges and responsibilities as set out in section 6.
Any change to the structure of the Foundation is a constitutional change, described in section 5.1.
3 Governing Board
3.1 Role of the Board
The goal of the Board is primarily to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Network, as well as to achieve the vision of Corda laid out in section 2.1. The fundamental responsibility of directors appointed to the Board is to exercise their business judgement to act in what they believe to be the best interests of the Network, taking account of the interests of the Network community as a whole (rather than any one individual interest).
Directors are expected to comply with the Conflict of Interest policy, which includes a responsibility to disclose promptly any conflicts that may arise, and meet the expected standards specified in the Code of Conduct Guidelines for ethical conduct and breach reporting.
The Board is the formal decision-making authority of the Foundation, and actions of the Board reflect its collective decision making.
3.2 Relationship of the Board with the Operator
It is the duty of the Board to monitor the Operator’s performance to ensure that the Network operates in an effective, efficient and ethical manner. The Board will also be responsible for overseeing the Operator in the development of the Network’s strategic and tactical plans, ensuring that they will result in broad and open adoption of Corda. The Operator is responsible to the Board for the execution of day to day operations, and the implementation of strategic and tactical change.
3.3 Composition and Establishment of the Board
The Board shall consist of 11 voting members (‘Directors’) in total, to allow broad representation but maintain an agile decision-making ability. The selection process (using the Participant Community) is intended to ensure that the Board is composed of members who display diversity in geography, culture, skills, experience and perspective, and that the abilities and interests of Directors are aligned with those of Corda.
R3 shall have the ongoing right to appoint two Directors, as the firm which developed Corda and funded the initial construction of the Network. It represents the interests of its large and diverse alliance of commercial organisations, financial institutions, and regulatory bodies. Similarly to the rest of the board, the Directors will have three-year terms (unless the director resigns or leaves for another reason) and can be re-appointed without limit. Appointment will be effective immediately.
The Chair of the board will be elected for a one year term by a vote of the Directors of the Board, at the first Board meeting following the Board election.
3.3.2 Participation Criteria
Participants shall be directed to vote to ensure that the Board is composed of Directors who in the aggregate produce the broadest diversity on the Board, consistent with meeting the other criteria. In addition, the Board is to be comprised of individuals who can demonstrate to Participants they meet the following requirements:
- Hold an understanding and appreciation of the Corda protocol and community purpose.
- Have an awareness of cultural and geographic perspectives.
- Demonstrate integrity, intelligence and objectivity.
- Can work and communicate in written and spoken English.
To promote diversity, the following guidelines are adopted, in particular for steady-state governance (recognising that these may not be possible to fulfil during the transition period):
- No corporate group of participants may have more than one Director. In the event of votes for two different candidates representing the same overall corporate group, the candidate with the most votes shall be considered.
- Of the nine Directors, there should not be more than three Directors from any broad industry classification, according to company classification data.
- Of the nine Directors, there should not be more than three Directors from any continent (one must be based in the Americas, Europe/Africa and Asia, to ensure geographic diversity.
- Of the nine Directors, there should not be more than three Directors representing any Corporate Group with more than 100,000 employees.
- Directors may hold a maximum of 4 terms. There is no restriction on re-election of the Chair of the Board, who holds a one-year term.
3.3.3 Establishment of the Board
Initially R3 shall govern the Network to ensure rapid progress on its implementation. Once the Foundation is set-up and at least three business networks are conducting live transactions using the network with at least three Participants each, the ‘transition period’ of one year will commence.
184.108.40.206 Transition: Initial set-up of Foundation Board:
For the transition year, the first three business networks shall have the right to choose three Participants, to represent the interests of the business network. One of each of these must be based in the Americas, Europe/Africa and Asia, to ensure geographic diversity, if the pool of Participants allows. Each selected Participant will appoint a Director, to sit on the Board, making nine Directors in addition to the two Directors from R3.
After this start-up period, there will be a vote for Board Directors.
For the first election only, of the nine vacant seats, three will be for a duration of one year, three for two years, and three for three years. This will introduce a staggered board, so there is greater continuity at the end of each term. Candidates with the most votes will fill the three-year seats first, followed by two-year and then one-year seats. In all other respects, the first election will follow the steady state process.
- Participants may nominate candidates for Director election. Appointments to the nine rotating seats of the Board will be by vote of the Participants, with three seats up for election each year. Any seats vacated mid-term will also be elected at the same time. R3 may not put forward candidates for the nine rotating seats, and these may not be held by R3 employees.
- Candidates will create a personal statement and short biography, which will be shared with all Participants.
- Participants may each cast up to three votes for three separate candidates.
- Subject to meeting certain criteria (including diversity of geography and industry), the most popular candidates will be appointed as Directors.
- Candidates will be considered in sequence from most popular to least, and if a seat is vacant according to the diversity criteria in section 3.3.2, the candidate will be allocated to it. This may mean that occasionally a less popular candidate fills a seat instead of a more popular one.
- R3 shall appoint Directors to the two remaining seats, when appropriate.
3.3.4 Removal from the Board and Re-election.
Apart from the three-year expiry, Directors can otherwise leave the Board by resignation, prolonged non-attendance of board meetings of more than six months, death, or if necessary, removal by a Mandatory Governance Event. In any case, a vacant seat will be contested at the next annual election.
3.4 Conduct of Board Meetings
Attendance may be in person or by video-conference.
The Board shall meet not less than every six months, and may meet on the request of any Director, but not more than every two months. At least two weeks’ notice shall be given to Directors. By exception, the Chair may convene an emergency meeting with minimal notice, appropriate to the situation in the Chair’s judgement.
The Board shall consider all Governance Events proposed since the previous meeting, except for an emergency convening.
Board meetings shall be limited to the Board representatives, and shall follow the requirements for quorum and voting outlined in this Constitution.
The Board may decide whether to allow one named representative to attend as an alternate, and typically these shall be allowed.
The Board meetings shall be conducted in private, but in the interest of transparency, public minutes shall be published within two weeks following their approval by the Board.
Participants who do not have representation on the Board may request an observer to be present at a Board meeting. This is subject to a lottery held one week prior to the meeting, a limit of 20 observer places, and a limit of one observer per unrepresented Participant. Observers may participate in discussions but shall not participate in any Board vote, and may be asked to join by video-conference if there are logistical constraints.
4 Relation of the Foundation to Business Networks
The global Network shall support the operation of any business networks which may be formed by industry-specific operators on top of the Network. The Board shall ensure that there is a clear separation between areas of governance for the Foundation and Network outlined in this document, and for individual business networks.
Additionally, the structure and control processes defined for the Foundation shall be documented and made available under a Creative Commons license, both for reuse by business network operators if business networks need a similar governance structure, and so that such governance layers are complementary and not contradictory.
5 Governance Events
All formal changes to the Network and the Foundation shall be controlled through a formal Governance Event process, and the right to initiate this shall be held by all Directors and Participants. In the event of disruptive behaviour by an individual Participant or group of Participants, this right may be curtailed, as described in 5.2.5.
5.1 Types of Governance Events
There are three types of change that affect the Network and the Foundation, which require a controlled change process and a vote described in 5.5, and are defined as Governance Events:
- All changes to the Stichting Articles of Association and By-laws are defined as Constitutional Governance Events.
- All changes to Network participation criteria, charges, budgets, change management process and other business areas not defined in Articles of Association or By-laws are defined as Mandatory Governance Events in section 5.2. The Board shall vote to accept or reject all such Mandatory Governance Events, and the outcomes are binding on Participants and the Operator for implementation.
- All changes to technical parameters and notary criteria, which affect the nodes of participants, are defined as Advisory Governance Events in section 5.3. While the Operator can implement these without Board approval, it may ask the Board to provide an advisory (non-binding) vote. Conversely, the Board may require that it is given the opportunity to provide an advisory vote.
Any other changes in the day to day internal implementation of network services by the Operator, which do not require changes to be implemented on the nodes of participants, are out of scope as Governance Events.
All Constitutional, Mandatory and Advisory Governance Events shall be supported by a formal proposal, using standard structured documents and containing all relevant background information, to create an efficient process both for the submitter and the Board. Depending on the content of the Governance Event proposal, the Board or Operator may rely on the Governance or Technical Advisory Committee to provide due diligence and make a recommendation for implementation.
For all Governance Events, decisions and the rationale for the decision shall be published transparently.
5.2 Mandatory Governance Events
5.2.1 Access Standards
The Corda system can be accessed by using software which implements the set of technical protocols which define compatibility (see 5.3.1) above). The reference implementation of this software is open source and freely accessible at www.corda.net.
To join the Network, a participant running Corda compatible software also needs a unique and real-world identity. The Foundation shall enforce this access requirement through the issuance of PKI certificates. Corda has a primary objective to facilitate automation of real-world contracts between real-world parties, and has a particular requirement to ensure that identities on the Network are unique and that all participants understand the basis on which they have been issued. The Foundation shall govern the operation of the technical infrastructure to enable a good level of service for identity issuance.
The access criteria for proving real world identity shall be defined by the Board and shall be transparent and objective. Any party which can demonstrate they meet these criteria will be issued a certificate without prejudice. The goal to ensure that the Operator which manages the issuance of the network certificates cannot act arbitrarily or discriminatory. But lawful requests from regulatory authorities of the Foundation’s jurisdiction shall be accepted.
These criteria may be subject to change over time to deal with changing circumstances, like regulatory requirements. However, the changes shall be subject to Mandatory Governance Events. In this way the Network is able to provide its participants with a strong and fair identity framework.
Arbitration, suspension, and in extreme circumstances, revocation (for example for illegal behaviour or when a participant no longer meets the standards set forth) shall be managed through an Emergency Governance Event, set out in 5.4.
5.2.2 Budget, Expenditure and Participation Fees
The Board shall annually prepare and approve a budget for the operations of the Foundation, taking into account the not-for-profit status of the Foundation and the mission to promote the Corda Ecosystem.
The Foundation shall charge a fee for Membership, as described in section 6.1.
The Operator shall charge the Foundation for services that the Operator provides under the requirements of the contract with the Foundation, including management of Participants, Network participation and access services, Network map and Operator-provided notary services. The Operator may also provide fee-based services that are supplementary to those needed to participate on the Network.
5.2.3 Change of Network Operator
For three years upon establishment of the Foundation, R3 will undertake the role of Operator. Annually thereafter, the Board will approve the appointment of the Operator, which may be changed with a Mandatory Governance Event and vote. As noted, the Foundation shall hold the Trust Root, and the Operator and any services they operate shall be provisioned with intermediate certificates that derive from this. The Operator must enter into an escrow arrangement upon appointment, so that existing certificates continue to work, certificate revocation lists continue to be published, and there is no disruption to Participants if the Operator is changed.
5.2.4 Change Management Process
The Network will periodically require participating nodes to implement change. A change notification and management process shall be defined and communicated; and any change to the change management process shall be the subject of a Mandatory Governance Event.
5.2.5 Other Mandatory Governance Events
Restrictions on individual Participants or a group to initiate Governance Events; in the event of disruptive behaviour.
Audit: the Board may request an audit of the activities and services provided by the Operator, no more frequently than every year, unless an emergency audit is authorised through a Mandatory Governance Event.
Marketing, Trademark and Branding: R3 shall commit to license the Corda trademark to the Foundation. The Foundation shall manage its own brand and any trademarks created.
Certifications: Where the Foundation provides standards for certification of organisations, individuals or technologies, the Board shall approve the standards and processes for certification.
Change to the arbitration and dispute resolution process shall be the subject of a Mandatory Governance Event.
Policies covering areas of operation not covered by the Constitution (e.g. code of conduct for Board Directors).
5.3 Advisory Governance Events
5.3.1 Technical Standards
There is a set of technical standards, such as ‘network parameters’, which all Corda Network nodes need to comply with in order to guarantee technical compatibility to other nodes and services within the Network. While Corda has stability and backwards compatibility as key design goals, there may be circumstances under which these standards will need to change. Where these changes require participants in the Network to update to remain compatible, these changes will be subject to Governance Events.
Changes to technical standards, such as some network parameters, shall require formal design processes, and the Operator may choose to delegate technical due diligence to the Technical Advisory Committee prior to formally accepting a change to the technical standards.
The Corda open source software is the reference implementation for the core technical standards adopted for the Network. Corda implementations and distributions can vary in their internal details, but their core interfaces and Corda protocol implementation must conform to this standard to be compatible with the Network.
5.3.2 Consensus Standards
The Foundation shall set minimum standards for notary clusters, to allow their use across different business applications. The Operator shall ensure that standards are followed by notary service providers, and shall operate a framework of audit and assessment, review, feedback, and certification, covering the following:
- Technical standards, such as meeting strict requirements for high-availability and data replication/security and performance.
- Compliance with necessary laws and regulations (for example privacy and data retention regulations) in the jurisdictions in which they operate.
- Availability for independent audits upon request by the Board.
Additionally, the Operator shall manage a reference distributed notary service for the Network, using a Board-approved crash or Byzantine fault tolerant (BFT) consensus algorithm, with nodes provided by a minimum number of identified and independent entities.
5.3.3 Dispute Resolution Process
Disputes between Participants arising from the operation of a Corda application are anticipated to be resolved by the business network operator, or directly if no business network is involved. If necessary, Participants may escalate to the Board by creating an Advisory Governance Event.
5.4 Emergency Governance Events
Certain Network incidents, which could impact one or more Network participants and that would be the subject of Mandatory or Advisory Governance Events, shall require immediate resolution. In these cases, the Operator may make emergency changes, but these shall be subject to post-event evaluation and standard Governance Event processing. Areas of control that are the subject of Mandatory Governance Events are not expected to require emergency remediation, but the Operator shall be entitled to make emergency changes to preserve the stability and integrity of the Network.
All Constitutional, Mandatory and Advisory Governance Events outlined in sections 5.2 and 5.3 shall be presented to the Board for voting. The representatives of the Board shall vote on a one vote per Director basis to approve or reject the Governance Event.
Quorum for the Board shall require two thirds of the Directors to vote. Abstention is not a vote. The Board may continue to meet if quorum is not met, but shall be prevented from making any decisions at the meeting. Decisions by electronic vote without a meeting shall require a vote by two thirds majority of all Directors.
Provided quorum is met, Constitutional Governance Events shall require a three quarters majority vote, and Mandatory Governance Events shall require a two thirds majority vote.
In the event of a tied vote (the odd number of representatives is intended to avoid tied votes) the vote of the Chair shall carry the vote. If the Chair does not vote in the case of a tied vote, the Event will not be passed.
All Governance Events proposed for consideration by the Board at a meeting shall be circulated in draft form to the members of the Board at least one week prior to the date of the meeting, and the text of such draft events may be altered at the meeting.
The Foundation may chose to implement the tracking and voting for Governance Events using an on-ledger Corda application in an attempt to simplify governance, provide transparency and lower costs, provided the application has been tested thoroughly and has sufficient manual override controls.
6.1 General Membership
Participation is open to any potential participant on the Network, subject to meeting normal Network access conditions described in section 5.2.1, and paying a nominal annual participation fee to cover both the operational costs of Network services and the Foundation, and to ensure that its activities are sufficiently resourced.
The Participant Community have the right to:
- Propose a formal Governance Event to the Board for voting. This must meet the appropriate standards and formats.
- Request observer representation at a board meeting subject to logistical constraints.
- Utilise any brand and marketing materials that may be provided by the Foundation to Participants.
- Identify themselves as participants of the Foundation.
- Vote in the periodic election of a new Board.
- Participate in conferences, projects and initiatives of the Foundation. Numbers of participants and any additional costs will depend on the individual event.
- Receive an identity necessary to operate a Corda node on the Network.
- Use the Network for live business activities running ‘in production’.
6.2 Technical Advisory Committee
The Technical Advisory Committee shall have limited participants appointed directly by the Board. Its mandate and charter will be set by the Board. It shall act directly on the instructions of the Board or the Operator, which shall set expected deliverables and timelines. It shall focus on specific technical topics and may have responsibility for the following:
- Advise on technical decisions for the Operator.
- Advising the Board in technical matters.
- Provide feedback on the technical roadmap for Corda, from real-world and practical experience gained from observing the operation of the Network.
- Conducting open design reviews and soliciting public input for technical proposals.
- Contributing to the Corda open source community from a Network perspective, to ensure that Corda retains a coherent, elegant and practical system design
6.3 Governance Advisory Committee
The Governance Advisory Committee shall have limited participants appointed directly by the board. Its purpose is to recommend actions to the Board for approval on non-technical matters, where additional support is helpful. This may include decisions on:
- Operator Due Diligence
- Identity and Permissions
- Risks and Escalations
- Interacting with Regulators
- Complaints and Whistle-blowing
7 The Corda Network Operator
In order to pursue the mission of the Foundation as set out in section 1, there will need to be a set of operational activities, including technical activities such as hosting services, marketing activities, community management and promotion. These activities shall be funded through the participation fees and overseen by the Board, and they will require operational staffing by the Operator. It is not envisaged (at least during the first year) that the Corda Network Foundation will need separate staff. Administrative operations and meeting facilities will be provided by the Operator.
The Operator shall invoice the Foundation for the costs of operating the Network and minor administrative expenses, initially on a cost-plus basis, and subject to annual review. Corda Network identity and map technical services have been designed to be highly cacheable, and low-cost in operation.
For the first three years, R3 shall act as the Operator.
8 Costs and Participation Fees
In line with the mission and values of the Foundation, the Network Foundation is not a profit seeking entity. But the Foundation needs to provide governance and technical services, and these will incur costs. The Foundation maintains these cost principles, as ideals but not contractual standards:
- Costs for all services should be borne by all users of those services.
- One group of participants should not subsidise another.
- The costs shall be tightly managed, and the Foundation shall seek to provide the most cost-effective implementation of all of its own administration, governance and technical services.
- Costs of one service should not be subsidised by another.
- The Foundation’s cost model should be public, to demonstrate that the costs could not reasonably be lower.
8.2 Participation Fee
The Foundation shall meet costs by levying a participation fee and notary fee for all Participants. The participation fee will be independent of organisation size and number of transactions on Corda, to reflect the underlying cost of identity issuance.
The fee shall be based on the number of Participants divided by an estimate of the cost of running the Foundation, which is set out in section 7. There may be variance in the fee depending on whether the Participant is indirectly using a Corda Network-powered application, and therefore the services which the Participant is able to access.
Such fees shall be detailed in a separate schedule to be updated annually and approved by the Board by a Mandatory Governance Event.
The Operator may agree to provide the Foundation with a start-up commercial loan, in order to allow the Foundation to cap fees for Participants initially. This will allow early widespread adoption, when early participant numbers will not offset fixed operating costs. In this case, the fees will not fall to steady-state levels until the loan has been repaid.
Subsidiaries of large organisations shall apply for membership separately, since the model for Corda usage is for one identity per legal entity, unless varied by Mandatory Governance Event. The fee and voting right shall apply to each subsidiary individually.
The fee applies even if the Participants chooses not to operate a Corda node on the Network. Therefore, Participants can be potential or active participants.
8.3 Notary Fee
Transaction notary fees will be charged separately, on a per-use basis. This reflects the variable cost of providing notary services, with a wide orders-of-magnitude disparity between frequent and infrequent participant transaction volumes. As a principle, notary fees shall not subsidise participation fees, nor vice versa.
Corda is a collaborative effort, and part of the Foundation’s mission is to help create and foster a technical community that will benefit all Corda solution providers and users. As such, the Foundation will work to encourage further participation of leading Participants of the ecosystem, including developers, service and solution providers and end users. This community shall work towards furthering the adoption of Corda, and contribute to the specific capabilities identified in the technical white paper.
The Corda technical community should be broad and open, encouraging participation and active conversations on the technology and applications, but this cannot be mandated by the Foundation.
The Foundation will welcome any organization able to meet the Participation criteria, regardless of competitive interests with other Participants. The Board shall not seek to exclude any Participant for any reasons other than those that are reasonable, explicit and applied on a non-discriminatory basis to all Participants.