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Is auDA Facilitating Branchstacking Ahead of SGM?

Allegations of branchstacking have surfaced ahead of the upcoming auDA Special General Meeting with supply class members rumoured to be encouraging staff to join along with what appears to be family members of the Chair Chris Leptos.

The allegations also include a rumour that leading supply organisations may also be offering to subsidise membership fees, a move that is against the rules of auDA, but has possibly been agreed to through an undeclared imprimatur of auDA management.

To be clear, according to the rules auDA members must pay for their own membership and it cannot be paid on their behalf – at least this has been the case in the past. The 13 February minutes indicate the Board ‘noted’ an update to Membership Application Processing Policy and requested an amendment to Membership Application Policy. However, in typical auDA fashion of late – these changes remain secret – so much for improved transparency.

As of 28 May 2018 there were 356 Demand and Supply members listed on the auDA website, up from 311 as of 15 February when there were no members with the surname “Leptos”. There were 318 members as of 29 June 2017 and 286 in January 2017. The spikes in membership could easily be attributed to the leadup to the Special General Meetings, the first in July 2017, and the next to vote on the removal of 3 independent directors, including the Chair, and a vote of no-confidence in CEO Cameron Boardman in July 2018. However, the surge in members in 2017 was not accompanied by allegations of anyone paying membership dues other than the members themselves, while in 2018 these rumours are circulating.

It remains to be seen how many new members may suddenly appear ahead of the July SGM, and whether there are common threads to existing auDA directors or influential supply organisations – to either dispel or affirm the conspiracy theories circulating.

It all comes on top of rumours circulating that the wholesale fee for .au domain names will only be decreasing by 10% with additional costs being passed on to registrars, despite auDA’s boasting about leveraging a more competitive wholesale fee through the Registry Transformation Project.

Meanwhile at the auDA board meeting held in April, all directors voted a huge increase in fees paid to independent directors, the very same directors that are faced with a vote to oust them at the upcoming Special General Meeting.