News: Quadriga, Quadriga, Quadriga

The news keeps getting worse for QuadrigaCX creditors. The Canadian crypto exchange has apparently jettisoned another $468,675 CAD worth of bitcoin into deep space.

On February 6, literally, one day after Quadriga applied for creditor protection, the exchange “inadvertently” sent 104 bitcoin to its dead CEO’s cold wallet, according to an initial report released by court-appointed monitor Ernst & Young (EY).

When Quadriga CEO Gerald Cotten died in India on December 9, he carried into the afterlife with him the keys to the exchange’s cold wallets, where $180 million CAD—oops, make that $180.5 million CAD—worth of crypto is stored. Unless Cotten springs from the grave, any crypto in those wallets is as good as gone.

You have to scratch your head till it bleeds on that one. Why was anyone at Quadriga allowed to touch those coins after the company applied for creditor protection? EY is now moving to safeguard the remaining crypto, a stash now down to 51 bitcoin, 33 bitcoin cash, 2,032 bitcoin gold, 822 litecoin, and 951 ether, worth $434,068 CAD. So, yes, basically, more than half the money in the hot wallets is now gone.

[To get the full details on the history of the exchange, read my article How the hell did we get here? A timeline of Quadriga events.]

EY is also working to retrieve about $30 million worth of cash from nine Quadriga payment processors. So far, EY has yet to collect a dime, and one of the processors is stubbornly insisting that “it has the right to continue to hold funds in its possession pursuant to the terms of its agreement with the Applicants.”

Which payment processor would that be then? How about WB21? According to Robertson’s affidavit filed on January 31, WB21 is holding roughly $9 million CAD and $2.4 million USD of the exchange’s money. Even before EY took over, WB21 was “refusing to release the funds or respond to communications from Quadriga.”

A quick Google search reveals that WB21 has long been plagued by accusations that it is a scam. A year ago, Quadriga customers were complaining on Reddit that they were having trouble getting their wires from WB21. And, surprise, surprise, it also turns out, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing WB21’s CEO for fraud. (You can find the full SEC complaint here.)

Quadriga’s 115,000 creditors need proper representation. On February 14, three law firms appeared in court to vie for the position of representative counsel. Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Michael Wood said he plans to have a final decision next week.

All this legal stuff is getting expensive. So far, Robertson has put up $250,000 CAD of the $300,000 CAD she promised in her affidavit to fund the CCAA process. And the funds are being gobbled up quick. Quadriga’s lawyer Maurice Chiasson said the money will run out in two weeks, if not or sooner.

After that, where will the money come from? Likely, out of whatever funds EY pulls from those nine payment processors.

Meanwhile, more funny business is starting to surface. In her sworn affidavit, Cotten’s widow stated that she had no dealings with Quadriga prior to Cotten’s death. Yet, three Quadriga creditors (archive) claim they received wires from Robertson’s real estate company, Robertson Nova Property Inc. The wire transactions occurred in 2016 and 2017. This is interesting, given Jennifer only changed her name to Robertson in April 2017.

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 9.04.16 PMDid you know that if you wanted to cash out of Quadriga, you could opt to have actual boxes of cash dropped off at your door? That was an actual service (archive) Quadriga offered its customers. A few have suggested that the money may have come from bitcoin ATM machines that Quadriga operated.

Remember, Quadriga had no corporate banking. That is why, when you sold bitcoin for cash on the exchange or wired in money via one of Quadriga’s payment processors, your online wallet was credited with QuadrigaCX Bucks—not real bucks.

But who knew? I’ve been speaking to Quadriga creditors and some of them had no clue that the “CAD” they saw in their online wallets was basically Quad Bucks. 

“Everyone knows CAD equals Quad bucks now, but I didn’t know that until after the implosion,” one creditor who preferred to remain anonymous told me. “I guess it was in the terms [and conditions], but it wasn’t marked Quad bucks.” 

Some traders also told me that bitcoin sold for a premium on Quadriga. That meant, you could buy bitcoin on another exchange, such as Kraken, and then sell it for a profit on Quadriga. As an added incentive to move your crypto onto the exchange, Quadriga also offered free cash withdrawals, as long as you did not mind waiting two weeks or so for the money to hit your bank account. You had to pay a fee for express withdrawals.

Finally, the Globe and Mail (outline) sent its investigative reporters to India, where Cotten and his wife celebrated their honeymoon just before Cotten died. People are still wondering if his death was staged. “That Mr. Cotten did indeed die is a certainty among police and medical professionals in India, and The Globe reviewed hotel, hospital and embalming records that give no suggestion of anything abnormal,” the Globe writes.

But why was Cotten’s body taken from the hospital where he died back to the hotel where he had been staying? (According to Cotten’s death certificate, Fortis Escorts Hospital was the place of death.) Partly because of this, Simmi Mehra, who works at Mahatma Gandhi Medical College & Hospital, refused to embalm the body.

She told The Globe: “That guy [a representative from the hotel] told me the body will come from the hotel. I said: ‘Why the hotel? I’m not taking any body from the hotel, it should come from Fortis.”

The Globe and Mail report also reveals tragic details of the oft-overlooked Angel House orphanage that Cotten and Robertson sponsored. Apparently, the money they donated only paid for building materials. Several doors are still missing from the structure, including one to the toilet. And the operator of the orphanage is sinking into debt.

The orphanage appears to be yet another example of the wake of destruction that Cotten, who otherwise lived as though money were no object, carelessly left in his passing.

 

 

News: Radio silence from QuadrigaCX, wash trading doesn’t pay, and KYC data turning up on the dark web

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 11.46.22 pmQuadrigaCX customers are still waiting to get their funds. The Canada-based crypto exchange has been eerily quiet since reporting on January 14 that its CEO Gerald Cotten died in India—a month earlier. 

Since then, the only sign of life has been a single tweet warning customers that another twitter account was fake.

Trouble began a year ago when the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce froze about $22 million in US dollars in an account opened by QuadrigaCX’s payment processor. The majority of the frozen funds were released in December, but customers still aren’t getting their money. In recent developments, one user on Reddit claims that he received $18,000. But several more of the exchange’s customers are complaining that their fiat withdrawals are being marked as completed with no money coming through.  

Customers are unable to move crypto out of the exchange either. Some report that requests are simply left pending.

According to a petition submitted to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on January 22, QuadrigaCX was to hold a shareholders meeting on January 25 to appoint a new director. When Cotten died on December 9, he left the company with no officers, and no way to carry out its business. Still, it is not clear if that is what is holding up funds or if something nefarious is going on. Two days after the shareholders meeting, the exchange still hasn’t posted an update.  

Crime, or in this case wash trading, doesn’t pay. Two executives at South Korean crypto exchange Komid are heading off to jail for faking volume, according to BlockinPress. Choi, the CEO, was sentenced to three years; Park, another executive, was sentenced to two years. Court documents say the faked volume led Choi and Park to earn $45 million.

Know-your-customer (KYC) data (ID cards, drivers licenses, and more) from several top exchanges, including Binance, Bittrex, Bitfinex, and Poloniex, appears to have surfaced on the dark web. Binance claims the data is not coming from its servers. Bitfinex also claims its databases have not been breached.

Since the markets crashed, crypto exchanges are looking for ways to boost their profits. To that end, Coinbase announced that is expanding its institutional trading services to Asia. The San Francisco-based exchange also now supports SWIFT wire transfers that will allow clients in Asia to fund their accounts from banks based outside the U.S.  

Immutability (aka “be your own bank”) has been a big selling point for blockchain. But it also makes mistakes especially painful. Korean crypto exchange Coinzest (not to be confused with Coinnest, a separate exchange) accidentally airdropped $5.3 million worth of bitcoin and other crypto to its customers. 

Polkadot, a project founded by former Ethereum CTO Gavin Wood, aims to solve the problem of blockchain interability. (If you’re not sure what that means, Wood tries to explain it here.) In October 2017, Polkadot raised $145 million worth of ETH in an ICO. Shortly after, $98 million of those funds became frozen due to a bug in Parity wallets, another Wood project. But that’s okay, because you can always get more funding.

In fact, earlier this month, Ethereum gave Parity Technologies, the umbrella company that Parity and Polkadot fall under, a $5 million grant. (Read this Reddit thread to get a sense of how the community felt about that.) Now Polkadot is reportedly looking to raise $60 million through another ICO, according to the Wall Street Journal. Polkadot still does not have a working product.

After one year of serving as CEO of decentralized media platform po.et, Jarrod Dicker has stepped down and returned to the Washington Post. Po.et allows journalists to create time-stamped titles for their work on a blockchain. The problem is, creating archives of our work is not a problem we journalist have. (I mean, there are lots of services that do that, and most of them are free.) Rather, it appears to be just another thinly veiled excuse for launching an ICO. Po.et raised $10 million in August 2017. 

Crypto lawyer Stephen Palley reports on the latest developments in the Tezos class action suit for The Block. In support of “yeah, this was a securities offering,” plaintiffs in the case cite emails from Tezos CEO Kathleen Breitman with securities-like wording. Oops! Tezos raised $232 million in an uncapped ICO in June 2017. The project has gotten criticism for raising above and beyond what most startups need to launch a business.

Galaxy Digital, the crypto merchant bank launched by former hedge fund manager Michael Novogratz, is reportedly raising $250 million for a credit fund aimed at helping needy crypto firms, according to Business Insider. If you are curious about how Novogratz got into crypto (hint: he was Ethereum co-founder and crypto billionaire Joe Lubin’s roommate at Princeton), read this New Yorker piece from April 2018. 

Bitcoiners don’t like to pay taxes. Some crypto folks are getting riled up about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax, calling it “theft.” Warren wants to levy a 2 percent tax on assets over $50 million and a 3 percent tax on assets over $1 billion.

Kyle Gibson, a crypto enthusiast and avid researchers who lives in Boston has pulled together a wealth of information on the Texas Department of Banking Memo 1037 and what it could mean for crypto, beyond stablecoins and their issuers. It is worth a read. 

 

News: ETC hacker returns some of the money, Constantinople will have to wait, and a new twist in the QuadrigaCX saga

Stealing money is not easy. So why go to all the effort if you’re not serious? Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 12.41.31 AM.png

Earlier this month, Ethereum Classic fell victim to a 51% attack when someone got hold of the majority of the network’s computing power and used it to double spend coins, stealing $1 million in funds. Now the hacker has returned some of the money. 

Gate.io, which originally lost $271,000 worth of ETC said the hacker returned $100,000 worth. And YoBit reported it got back $61,000 of $65,000 worth of stolen ETC. 

“We still don’t know the reason [for the return],” Gate.io said in a blog post on January 10. “If the attacker didn’t run it for profit, he might be a white hacker who wanted to remind people the risks in blockchain consensus and hashing power security.”

If you are a crypto exchange, you’re probably not seeing the profits you did back in the crypto heydays of 2017 and early 2018. So how do you make up for that? One option is to start listing lots of questionable coins. Another is to set the stage for the long-hoped-for influx of institution money.

Along those lines, Bittrex announced an over-the-counter (OTC) desk on January 14. The service handles trades of $250,000 or greater for the nearly 200 coins already offered by the exchange. In doing so, Bittrex joins other U.S.-based exchanges in launching OTC trading desks, including Coinbase and Poloniex.

Ethereum’s Constantinople upgrade has been delayed yet again. Shortly before the scheduled January 17 release, smart contract audit firm ChainSecurity found vulnerabilities in one of five ethereum improvement proposals (EIP). ChainSecurity describes the vulnerability in detail here. Ethereum core developers are now weighing late February as a time to move ahead with the upgrade—sans the buggy EIP.

A new twist has emerged in the saga of QuadrigaCX, one of the largest crypto exchanges in Canada. The saga began in January 2018 when the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce froze about $22 million in US dollars in an account opened by Quadriga’s payment processor. The majority of the frozen funds were released in December, but customers still aren’t getting their money.

Now, after waiting more than a month to post the news, Quadriga says that its CEO and founder Gerald Cotten is dead. Usually, when the CEO of a company dies, that is something you want to tell people right away.   

The announcement (archive) on the company’s website appears to come from Cotten’s wife, Jennifer Robertson, who explains that Cotten went to India to build an orphanage for needy children. While there, he died of complications to Crohn’s disease.  

“Gerry cared deeply about honesty and transparency — values he lived by in both his professional and personal life. He was hardworking and passionate, with an unwavering commitment to his customers, employees, and family,” Robertson wrote. [Emphasis mine.]

Several of Quadriga’s customers went to Reddit asking for proof of Cotten’s death. Some wondered how Cotten found time to travel to India when his company was in the midst of major litigation. 

Binance, one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges by trading volume, has launched a  fiat-to-crypto exchange in Jersey. A tiny 5-by-9-mile island in the English Channel, Jersey is one of the world’s wealthiest offshore tax shelters.

In October, Binance also set up a fiat-to-crypto exchange in Uganda. And it is planning to set up more of these entities in countries like Singapore, Malta, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Argentina, Russia, Turkey, and Bermuda.

Tron’s accelerator developer contest is looking like a big scam. The event was supposed to offer $1 million in prizes, with the first prize being $200,000. After the competition ended on January 4, developers took to Twitter and Reddit to complain that something “fishy” was going on. Apparently, Tron changed the prize amounts, and the main prize went to some vague company nobody has ever heard of.  

Brave browser, the project run by JavaScript creator and former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, claims that is is no longer fundraising on behalf of others, after releasing version 0.58.21 of the browser. David Gerard wrote an update and posted some pics of the new interface. If you get a chance, tip Gerard some BAT via his YouTube channel, so he can continue to test out the platform.  

Also, Brave browser has started allowing developers and testers to view ads. You can’t earn BAT for viewing the ads yet, but all that is coming. Eventually, Brave says, “users will then be able to earn 70% of the revenue share coming from those ads.”

The business model has gotten a ton of criticism. Essentially, the browser strips all ads and add trackers — which is how most publishing sites make their money — and then substitutes its own Brave-approved ads.

There’s been some important developments in the Tezos class-action litigation. Next up, likely the court will rule on whether the Tezos initial coin offering—which raised a record-setting $232 million in mid-2017—was an unregistered securities offering.

A ransomware threat known as Ryuk has pulled in $3.7 million in bitcoin over five months.

The Winklevoss Twins still think Bitcoin will be worth more than gold, maybe in the hopes they will be billionaires again. “The only thing gold has over bitcoin is a 3,000 year head start,” Cameron told Fortune.  

Brock Pierce, who got into cryptocurrency in the early days, and his wife Crystal Rose Pierce are expecting a child in March. They are naming the baby Crypto Pierce.

About 5% of daily Bitcoin transactions involve tether (USDT), according to a Medium post by Omni, the platform that tether operates on.  

Despite competition from a slew of new stablecoins, tether still dominates the stablecoin market, according to the latest report from CryptoCompare.

In case you missed it, I published a complete Tether timeline. I’m continuing to to update the story based on whatever new info I stumble upon. So keep checking back—and if you have information to add, send me details!

 

News: ETC hit by 51% attack, Tron is a marketing machine, and India’s banks want nothing to do with bitcoin

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.30.16 pmEthereum Classic was hit by a 51% attack. A private pool got hold of more than half of the network’s computing power and used that to rewrite history and double spend nearly $1.1 million ETC, the platform’s native currency. Coinbase noted the attack on January 5, and followed with a detailed analysis of what happened.

Here is the irony: Ethereum Classic was founded on the principle of immutability, meaning good or bad, legal or illegal, whatever transactions happen on the network, happen, and you have to live with it. The project took over the pre-fork chain after Ethereum forked to reverse transactions in the DAO hack. If Ethereum Classic wants to stand on that hill, it may have to suffer the consequences, which so far, have not been terrible. ETC was $5 at the time of the attack and is now at $4.66.

Bitcoin saw its 10-year anniversary on January 9. CoinDesk threw a whopping party in New York City, which, judging by photos, was well attended by a lot of white men. For bitcoiners, 10 years is a mark of resilience. But it is worth noting, for the most part, you still cannot buy groceries or pay rent with bitcoin. And if you bought bitcoin a year ago ($14,000) and sold today ($3,700), you would have lost two-thirds of your investment — so much for store of value.

KodakOne announced it generated $1 million in “post-licensing claims” on a beta of its platform. Breaker’s David Z. Morris did a softball interview with KodakOne’s Cam Shell, omitting tough questions like, “How in god’s name did you manage to come out with a beta version of the platform while stiffing all your developers?” I followed up with a story of my own as did Decrypt Media’s Ben Munster and David Gerard, explaining that the $1 million is completely hypothetical money.

Justin Sun, the CEO of blockchain platform Tron, has been unveiled as technically incompetent. Tron recently bought file-sharing client BitTorrent, Now it wants to launch a BitTorrent token. But, in a Breaker interview (another story by Z. Morris, but this one, really good), former BitTorrent executive Simon Morris said there is no way Tron can handle the transaction volume. Simon also said Sun has no technical know-how and Tron is basically little more than a marketing machine.  

Rumors swirled a week ago that the co-CEOs of Chinese crypto miner maker Bitmain, Wu Jihan and Zhan Ketuan were going to step down. Turns out, the rumors are true, and Wang Haichao, Bitmain’s director of product engineering, has stepped in to replace them as CEO. In December, CoinDesk reported that Bitmain may be letting go of half of its 3,100 workforce. None of this bodes well for the company’s upcoming IPO.

If you want to trade bitcoin in India, you better keep that information well hidden from your bank. The country’s banks are sending out notices warning customers that they will close accounts without notice, if customers are found dealing in cryptocurrency.

The Texas Department of Banking released a supervisory memorandum on January 2 in regard to treatment of virtual currencies under the Texas Money Services Act. According to the memo, Texas considers pegged stablecoins, like tether, money, which means that anyone dealing with them may need to apply for a Texas money transmitter license.