At my recent 20-year reunion, I caught up with a friend who I’d been close with all through high school. I’d known his family as well, so asked after them all; what have they all been up to?
“My dad is big-time into cryptocurrency,” he said. “He bought in early, and he’s got millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. So he’s doing really well!”
Is he, though?
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Cryptocurrency is the Next Big Thing to disrupt our financial markets, but it all sounds a little risky to me.
There’s no value under-pinning the currency – it is quite literally manufactured from thin air. Plus, I don’t like the idea of my wealth being so vulnerable to unusual risks. Like, say, the risk that someone with seniority in the business might die, taking all of the passwords to the crypto bank with them.
Canadian man Gerald Cotton, founder of digital platform Quadriga (which is a platform that allows people to trade Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies), unexpectedly died at the age of 30 from complications with Crohn’s disease.
Gerald, who was reportedly volunteering at an orphanage in India at the time, had kept the passwords for over AU$250m worth of clients’ currency on his laptop. Somehow, he was exclusively responsible for transferring money within the business, and he was Quadriga’s sole officer and director.
His wife Jennifer says she does not know the password or recovery key, nor can she access the laptop.
Earlier in 2018, CIBC (a Canadian bank) took legal action and froze almost $26m.
It’s all starting to sound a little fishy, and some are questioning whether Gerald may have faked his own death.
In fact, competitor firm KrakenFX even tweeted that they are “investigating the bizarre and, frankly, unbelievable story of the founder’s death and lost keys”.
To complicate things further, Gerald died in early December – but his wife didn’t publicly announce it or share the news with their 100,000-plus clients for almost a month, posting it on social media on January 14.
It all sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, but for the tens of thousands of people who have money stuck in the exchange – this is very much real life.
Our banks are pretty terrible, it’s true. But I’d rather trust my savings with them than a cryptocurrency…