On Feb. 1, news broke that Gerald Cotten, the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX, had died in India — and taken the passwords to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of digital money with him to the grave.
Almost immediately, ripped off Quadriga customers suggested that Cotten had faked his own death, like a modern-day D.B. Cooper. Whether they’re right or wrong, the debacle shows that more than a decade after a pseudonymous coder released Bitcoin, the blockchain space remains a Wild West of cons, hustles and conspiracy.
Here’s our roundup of the latest news about fallout from the crypto CEO’s death.
- That Whole Timing-of-the-Will Thing: Bloomberg reported yesterday that Cotten filed a will just 12 days before his death.
- That Whole Even-Academics-Are-Now-Questioning-This Thing: More credible sources are starting to question Cotten’s death, though often in careful language. Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer, for instance, told the New York Times yesterday that Cotten’s “death came at a very odd time in the history of that company.”
- That Whole Timing-of-the-Story Thing: Aggrieved Quadriga users are also fixating on why it took more than a month — from Dec. 9 to Jan. 31 — for the story of Cotten’s death to emerge.
- That Whole Canadian-Funeral-Home-Thing: Others are calling the Canadian funeral home that provided a statement of death on Dec. 12 to demand answers. One posted on Reddit that the funeral home confirmed that it had held a funeral service for Cotten on Dec. 14; another said the person who answered was “shaken by the question” and that another representative said Cotten wasn’t in the database.
- That Whole Either-Way-Bad-For-Crypto Thing: One takeaway that’s not shrouded in mystery: the fiasco is a nightmare for blockchain’s public perception. A new Wired piece by the brilliant security researcher Bruce Schneier doesn’t mention QuadrigaCX or Cotten by name, but both cast a long shadow on its brutal analysis. “Honestly, cryptocurrencies are useless,” Schneier wrote. “They’re only used by speculators looking for quick riches, people who don’t like government backed currencies, and criminals who want a black-market way to exchange money.”
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