|Location||Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan|
Mt. Gox was a Bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo, Japan. It was launched in July 2010, and by 2013 was handling 70% of all Bitcoin transactions. In February 2014, the Mt. Gox company suspended trading, closed its website and exchange service, and filed for a form of bankruptcy protection from creditors called minji saisei, or civil rehabilitation, to allow courts to seek a buyer. In April 2014, the company began liquidation proceedings. It announced that around 850,000 bitcoins belonging to customers and the company were missing and likely stolen, an amount valued at more than $450 million at the time. Although 200,000 bitcoins have since been "found", the reason(s) for the disappearance—theft, fraud, mismanagement, or a combination of these—are unclear as of March 2014.
In late 2006, programmer Jed McCaleb (eDonkey2000, Overnet1, Ripple, Stellar) thought of building a website for users of the Magic: The Gathering Online service to let them trade cards like stocks. In January 2007, he purchased the domain name mtgox.com, short for "Magic: The Gathering Online eXchange". Initially in beta release, sometime around late 2007, the service went live for around 3 months before McCaleb moved on to other projects, having decided it was not worth his time. He reused the domain name in 2009 to advertise his card game The Far Wilds.
In July 2010, McCaleb read about Bitcoin on Slashdot, and decided that the Bitcoin community needed an exchange for trading Bitcoin and regular currencies; a week later on 18 July, after writing an exchange website, he launched it while reusing the spare mtgox.com domain name.
I created mtgox on a lark after reading about bitcoins last summer. It has been interesting and fun to do. I’m still very confident that bitcoins have a bright future. But to really make mtgox what it has the potential to be would require more time than I have right now. So I’ve decided to pass the torch to someone better able to take the site to the next level.
On 19 June 2011, a security breach of the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange caused the nominal price of a bitcoin to fraudulently drop to one cent on the Mt. Gox exchange, after a hacker allegedly used credentials from a Mt. Gox auditor's compromised computer illegally to transfer a large number of bitcoins to himself. He used the exchange's software to sell them all nominally, creating a massive "ask" order at any price. Within minutes the price corrected to its correct user-traded value. Accounts with the equivalent of more than $8,750,000 were affected. In order to prove that Mt.Gox still had control of the coins, the move of 424,242 bitcoins from "cold storage" to a Mt.Gox address was announced beforehand and executed in Block 132749.
In October 2011, about two dozen transactions appeared in the block chain (Block 150951) that sent a total of 2,609 BTC to invalid addresses. As no private key could ever be assigned to them, these Bitcoins were effectively lost. While the standard client would check for such an error and reject the transactions, nodes on the network would not, exposing a weakness in the protocol.
On 22 February 2013, following an introduction of new anti-money laundering requirements by Dwolla, some Dwolla accounts became temporarily restricted. As a result, transactions from Mt. Gox to those accounts were cancelled by Dwolla. The funds never made it back to Mt. Gox accounts. Mt. Gox help desk issued the following comment: "Please be advised that you are actually not allowed to cancel any withdrawals received from Mt. Gox as we have never had this case before and we are working with Dwolla to locate your returned funds." The funds were finally returned on May 3, more than 3 months later, with a note "Please be advised never to cancel any Dwolla withdrawals from us again".
In March 2013, the bitcoin transaction log or "blockchain" temporarily forked into two independent logs with differing rules on how transactions could be accepted. The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange briefly halted bitcoin deposits. Bitcoin prices briefly dipped by 23% to $37 as the event occurred before recovering to their previous level in the following hours, a price of approximately $48.
By April 2013 the site had grown to handle 70% of the world's bitcoin trades. With prices increasing rapidly, Mt. Gox suspended trading from 11–12 April for a "market cooldown". The value of a single bitcoin fell to a low of $55.59 after the resumption of trading before stabilizing above $100. Around mid May 2013, Mt. Gox traded 150,000 bitcoins per day, per Bitcoin Charts.
On 2 May 2013 CoinLab filed a $75 million lawsuit against Mt. Gox alleging a breach of contract. The companies had formed a partnership in February 2013 under which CoinLab handled all of Mt. Gox's North American services. CoinLab's lawsuit contends that Mt. Gox failed to allow them to move existing U.S. and Canadian customers from Mt. Gox to CoinLab.
On 15 May 2013 the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a warrant to seize money from Mt. Gox's US subsidiary's account with payment processor Dwolla. The warrant suggests the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative branch of the DHS, felt that the subsidiary, which was not licensed by the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), was operating as an unregistered money transmitter in the US. Between May and July more than $5 million were seized. On 29 June 2013, Mt. Gox received its money services business (MSB) license from FinCEN.
On August 5, 2013, Mt. Gox announced that they incurred "significant losses" due to crediting deposits which had not fully cleared and that new deposits would no longer be credited until the funds transfer was fully completed.
Insolvency and shutdown
Mt. Gox suspended withdrawals in US dollars on June 20, 2013. The Mizuho Bank branch in Tokyo that handled Mt. Gox transactions pressured Mt. Gox from then on to close its account. On July 4, 2013, Mt. Gox announced that it had "fully resumed" withdrawals, but as of September 5, 2013, few US dollar withdrawals had been successfully completed.
Wired Magazine reported in November 2013 that customers were experiencing delays of weeks to months in withdrawing funds from their accounts. The article said that the company had “effectively been frozen out of the U.S. banking system because of its regulatory problems”. Customer complaints about long delays were mounting as of February 2014, with more than 3300 posts in a thread about the topic on the Bitcoin Talk online forum.
On 7 February 2014, all Bitcoin withdrawals were halted by Mt. Gox. The company said it was pausing withdrawal requests “to obtain a clear technical view of the currency processes”. The company issued a press release on February 10, 2014 stating that the issue was due to transaction malleability: “A bug in the bitcoin software makes it possible for someone to use the Bitcoin network to alter transaction details to make it seem like a sending of bitcoins to a bitcoin wallet did not occur when in fact it did occur. Since the transaction appears as if it has not proceeded correctly, the bitcoins may be resent. MtGox is working with the Bitcoin core development team and others to mitigate this issue.”
On 17 February 2014, with all Mt. Gox withdrawals still halted and competing exchanges back in full operation, the company published another press release indicating the steps they claim they are taking to address security issues. In an email interview with the Wall Street Journal, CEO Mark Karpelès refused to comment on increasing concerns among customers about the financial status of the exchange, did not give a definite date on which withdrawals would be resumed, and wrote that the exchange would impose "new daily and monthly limits" on withdrawals if and when they were resumed. A poll of 3000 Mt. Gox customers by CoinDesk indicated that 68% of customers were still awaiting funds from Mt. Gox. The median waiting time was between one to three months. 21% of poll respondents had been waiting for three months or more.
On 20 February 2014, with all withdrawals still halted, Mt. Gox issued yet another statement, giving no date for the resumption of withdrawals. A protest by two Bitcoin enthusiasts outside the building that houses the Mt. Gox headquarters in Tokyo continued. Citing "security concerns", Mt. Gox announced they had moved their offices to a different location in Shibuya. Bitcoin prices quoted by Mt. Gox dropped below 20% of the prices on other exchanges, reflecting the market's estimate of the unlikelihood of Mt. Gox paying their customers.
On 24 February 2014, Mt. Gox suspended all trading, and hours later its website went offline, returning a blank page. An alleged leaked internal crisis management document claimed that the company was insolvent, after losing 744,408 bitcoins in a theft which went undetected for years. Six other major bitcoin exchanges released a joint statement distancing themselves from Mt. Gox, shortly before Mt. Gox's website went offline.
On 25 February 2014, Mt. Gox reported on its website that a "decision was taken to close all transactions for the time being", citing "recent news reports and the potential repercussions on MtGox's operations". The chief executive, Mark Karpelès, told Reuters that Mt. Gox was "at a turning point".
On 28 February 2014 Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo, reporting that it had liabilities of about 6.5 billion yen ($64 million at the time), and 3.84 billion yen in assets. The company said they had lost almost 750,000 of its customers' bitcoins, and around 100,000 of its own bitcoins, totaling around 7% of all bitcoins, and worth around $473 million near the time of the filing. Mt. Gox released a statement saying "The company believes there is a high possibility that the Bitcoins were stolen,” blaming hackers, thus beginning a search for the missing money. The Chief Executive of Mt. Gox, Mark Karpelès, said technical issues opened up the way for fraudulent withdrawals.
On 20 March 2014, Mt. Gox reported on its website that it found some Bitcoins — worth around $116 million — in an old digital wallet from 2011. That brings the total number of Bitcoins the firm lost down to 650,000 from 850,000.
On April 14, Mt. Gox lawyers said that Mark Karpeles would not appear for a deposition in a Dallas court, or heed a subpoena by FinCEN. On 16 April 2014, Mt. Gox gave up its plan to rebuild under bankruptcy protection, and asked a Tokyo court to allow it to be liquidated.
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MtGox Co., Ltd. had certain oldformat wallets which were used in the past and which, MtGox thought, no longer held any bitcoins. Following the application for commencement of a civil rehabilitation proceeding, these wallets were rescanned and their balance researched. On March 7, 2014, MtGox Co., Ltd. confirmed that an oldformat wallet which was used prior to June 2011 held a balance of approximately 200,000 BTC (199,999.99 BTC).
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