Quadriga Fintech Solutions

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Quadriga Fintech Solutions
Founded2013
FoundersGerald Cotten, Michael Patryn
Headquarters
ProductsCryptocurrency exchange
Websitewww.quadrigacx.com

Quadriga Fintech Solutions was the owner and operator of QuadrigaCX, which was believed to be Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange. In 2019 the exchange ceased operations and the company was declared bankrupt with C$215.7 million in liabilities and about C$28 million in assets.[1]

The company's CEO and founder, Gerald William Cotten [11 May 1988 - 9 December 2018],[2] died unexpectedly in December 2018, after travelling to India. Up to C$250 million (US$190 million) owed to 115,000 customers were missing[3] or could not be accessed because only Cotten held the password to off-line cold wallets.[4][5][6]

Quadriga likely never invested the funds entrusted to it, according to Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency tracking firm. Either the funds were never received or quickly went missing. "What Quadriga really did with the money that customers gave it to buy Bitcoin remains a mystery," according to Chainalysis.[7]

Ernst & Young was appointed as an independent monitor while Quadriga was granted temporary legal protection from its creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.[8][9] On 8 April 2019 the firm entered bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act as the possibility of a successful reorganization appeared to be remote.[10][11]

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were reportedly investigating the company.[12]

History[edit]

External audio
Front Burner- Inside Canada's Crypto Mystery, CBC News, 12 March 2019, 23:08[13]

Before attending the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Gerald Cotten lived in Belleville, Ontario. He graduated from York with a bachelor of business administration in 2010. He learned about bitcoin in Toronto and travelled to Vancouver, British Columbia where he founded Quadriga in November 2013 with Michael Patryn.

Quadriga started by doing only local trades. Their online exchange launched after the first month. In January 2014 they installed the second Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver.[14] In 2014 only C$7.4-million worth of bitcoin were exchanged on Quadriga.[15]

The company tried to raise money and list on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) working with Patryn. The company raised C$850,000 but cancelled plans to list on the exchange in early 2016. Quadriga had four employees in 2015 with offices in Vancouver and Toronto, but ran out of money by June 2015.[15]

In 2016, Cotten became the sole director of Quadriga when all the other directors resigned.[16] Other than a few contractors, it had no employees, offices or bank accounts thereafter.[15][17]

In 2017 Bitcoin experienced a speculative frenzy rising in price from about US$1,000 to almost US$20,000. About C$1.2-billion worth of bitcoin was exchanged on Quadriga. While the large increase in volume increased commissions, it also caused cash-flow problems due to the exchange's reliance on external payment processors and its lack of a proper accounting system.[15] In June 2017, Quadriga announced that they lost ethereum worth US$14 million due to a smart contract error.[18]

Throughout 2018, as Bitcoin prices crashed, customers of the exchange reported delays when attempting to withdraw dollars.[19][20] C$28 million held by Costodian, a Quadriga payment processor, was frozen by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in January 2018. CIBC stated that they could not determine the ownership of the money and could not contact Cotten or Quadriga. In November 2018 the case was decided with the accounts going to the court to decide the ownership individually. Neither Costodian or Quadriga could access the funds.[21][22][23]

According to court filings, Quadriga also used WB21 as a payment processor.[15] Michael Gastauer, Chief Executive of WB21, has been named in a civil lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as part of a US$165 million fraud.[24] Another payment processor used by Quadriga, Crypto Capital, was named in a civil suit filed by the New York Attorney General in April 2019. In that case, $851 million entrusted to Crypto Capital had been "lost, stolen or absconded with", according to the suit.[25]

Quadriga used an unusual teller-window system for customers to withdraw their money. Rather than pay customers via bank wires, they were told to come to a nondescript building in Laval, Quebec to pick up the cash. Customers reported that once they arrived, there was nobody in the office, or that there was no cash to be disbursed.[3]

In January 2019 Ernst & Young reported that Quadriga did not have a bank account, but instead used third party payment processors. It apparently had no formal accounting system. The business was run from Cotten's encrypted laptop from Cotten's home in Fall River, Nova Scotia.[8][9]

Omar Dhanani[edit]

Patryn has been identified by The Globe and Mail as Omar Dhanani who was convicted on identity theft charges in the U.S. and served 18 months in Federal prison. Dhanani also had pleaded guilty to burglary and grand theft charges and was deported to Canada.[15][26] Bloomberg also identified Patryn as Dhanani showing that he officially changed his name from Omar Dhanani to Omar Patryn in British Columbia in March 2003 and changed it again to Michael Patryn in October 2008.[27]

CEO's death[edit]

According to Jennifer Robertson, Cotten's widow, he died on 9 December 2018 while traveling in India. She accompanied him to a hospital in Jaipur the previous day and he was diagnosed with septic shock, perforation, peritonitis, and intestinal obstruction. On the 9th he died after episodes of cardiac arrest. On 10 December a death certificate was issued by the local municipality, as well as a "no objection certificate" from the police to return the body to Nova Scotia.[28]

Robertson filed an affidavit on behalf of the company which included a "Statement of Death" for Cotten, filed in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 12 December 2018.[29][30] It also stated that Quadriga has 363,000 registered users and a sum of C$250 million is owed to 115,000 affected users.[31]

Cotten's will was signed 27 November 2018, twelve days before he died. It left Robertson the entire C$9.6-million estate and named her as the trustee. The estate includes an airplane, a sailboat, a 2017 Lexus, and real estate in Kelowna, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. A C$100,000 trust fund will provide lifelong care for Cotten's two chihuahuas in case of Robertson's death.[32][33]

On 14 January 2019,[34] Quadriga announced that their CEO, Gerald Cotten, died the month prior from Crohn's disease while doing volunteer work at an orphanage in India.[31] After the exchange was put into maintenance mode for several days in January, they announced on the 31st that they were applying for creditor protection.[35] According to an affidavit by the CEO's widow, approximately 115,000 customers are owed C$250 million (US$190 million), most of which was cryptocurrency held in QuadrigaCX's cold wallet in the laptop that only the deceased CEO had access to.[5] Blockchain analysts have reported that they are unable to find evidence of Quadriga's cold wallets on the blockchain, a public ledger used for cryptocurrencies.[36][37]

Ernst & Young found five Quadriga cold wallet addresses, but they were empty, containing no cryptocurrency since April 2018. Another "appears to have been used to receive Bitcoin from another cryptocurrency exchange account and subsequently transfer Bitcoin to the Quadriga hot wallet" on 3 December.[38] Another 3 empty wallets were believed to possibly be owned by Quadriga. Fourteen trading accounts that were also examined were used to trade on other exchanges.[38]

Quadriga continued to accept deposits until 26 January.[16]

Some Reddit users have suggested that Cotten faked his own death in order to defraud customers through an exit scam, while others believe that Cotten's death exposed a Ponzi scheme.[39][40]

Bankruptcy proceedings[edit]

On 5 February, Halifax judge Michael Wood ordered a "30-day stay that precludes filing of claims against Quadriga", which is a temporary legal protection from its creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, a form of bankruptcy.[8] Meanwhile, in order to manage the finances of the company during the process, a third party monitor, Ernst & Young, has been appointed.[31] Aaron Matthews is now serving as Director of Operations.[15]

Ernst & Young reported on 6 February 2019 that C$468,675 (US$354,300) of bitcoin were "inadvertently" sent to an inaccessible cold wallet.[41]

On 5 March 2019 Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Michael Wood extended Quadriga's court protection to 23 April. He appointed Peter Wedlake of Grant Thornton to be chief restructuring officer. Quadriga's customers are owed C$260 million in cryptocurrency and cash. A C$24.7 million disbursement fund has been planned with C$300,000 to go to Cotten's widow, Jennifer Robertson, who advanced that amount to start the court proceedings, C$200,000 will go to Ernst & Young and another C$250,000 to its lawyers, C$229,842 will go to Quadriga's lawyers and C$17,000 to independent contractors.[42]

Quadriga's lawyer, the firm Stewart McKelvey, withdrew from the case due to a potential conflict of interest.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Investigation of Quadriga cryptocurrency debacle turns up only $28 million in assets". Ottawa Citizen. Canadian Press. 13 May 2019. Archived from the original on 14 May 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  2. ^ How Gerald Cotten built Quadriga — and created the ensuing crypto storm
  3. ^ a b Vigna, Paul; Shifflett, Shane (19 February 2019). "'Our Cash Went to Something': Customers Hunt for Bankrupt Crypto Exchange's Missing Millions". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 19 February 2019. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  4. ^ Nicole Munro (7 February 2019). "Nothing sinister about bitcoin company CEO's sudden death, friend says". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019. The 30-year-old Nova Scotia native died 'while undergoing treatment at Fortis hospital in Jaipur,' India, states a Jawahar Circle police document. 'According to the chief medical officer of the hospital, Jayant Sharma, it was a sudden death.'
  5. ^ a b Shore, Randy (1 February 2019). "Troubled Bitcoin trader QuadrigaCX takes another bizarre turn". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 3 February 2019.
  6. ^ Ligaya, Armina (4 February 2019). "Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange Quadriga seeks creditor protection". CTV News. BellMedia. Archived from the original on 5 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  7. ^ Wieczner, Jen (24 April 2019). "Bitcoin Accounts for 95% of Cryptocurrency Crime, Says Analyst". Fortune. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2019. "What we found very quickly was that Quadriga as an exchange actually didn’t have those customer funds that were reported in the media to be now lost—those funds actually never existed", Levin explains. What Quadriga really did with the money that customers gave it to buy Bitcoin remains a mystery.
  8. ^ a b c Zraick, Karen (5 February 2019). "Crypto-Exchange Says It Can't Pay Investors Because Its C.E.O. Died, and He Had the Passwords". New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (31 January 2019). "Pre-filing report of the proposed monitor" (PDF). p. 12. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  10. ^ McDonald, Michael (8 April 2019). "Controversial QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange placed in bankruptcy". CBC News. The Canadian Press. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  11. ^ Pearson, Natalie Obiko (2 April 2019). "Quadriga Should Shift to Bankruptcy Proceedings, Monitor Says". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 7 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  12. ^ Roberts, Jeff John (4 March 2019). "FBI Probing Bitcoin Exchange Quadriga Over Missing $136 Million, Source Alleges". Fortune. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Inside Canada's Crypto Mystery". CBC News. 12 March 2019. Archived from the original on 14 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  14. ^ Hui, Stephen (14 February 2014). "Geek Speak: Gerald Cotton, CEO of Quadriga CX". The Georgia Straight. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Castaldo, Joe; Posadzki, Alexandra; Jessica, Leeder; Jones, Lindsay (8 February 2019). "Crypto chaos: From Vancouver to Halifax, tracing the mystery of Quadriga's missing millions". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  16. ^ a b Gregory Barber (5 February 2019). "A crypto exchange CEO dies-with the only key to $137 million". Wired magazine. Archived from the original on 6 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019. On Tuesday, a Halifax judge granted Quadriga a 30-day stay while it searches for the lost crypto, temporarily shielding the company from lawsuits by customers, some of whom reportedly own millions that are now stranded.
  17. ^ "Details emerging about Gerald Cotten, the young founder of QuadrigaCX". Vancouver Sun. The Canadian Press. 8 February 2019. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  18. ^ Butcher, Jared (12 June 2017). "My smart contract just ate $14 million—now what? Re-thinking indemnification for smart contract risks". Lexology. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019.
  19. ^ Alini, Erica (27 March 2018). "'I just want my money back.' Couple had $100K wire stuck for months after trying to buy Bitcoin". Global News. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019.
  20. ^ Lee-Young, Joanne (15 April 2018). "Bitcoin investors face long delays cashing out, criticize two B.C. firms". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019.
  21. ^ "What happens when your bitcoin banker dies?". The Economist. 7 February 2019. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  22. ^ Posadzki, Alexandra (9 October 2018). "Vancouver crypto exchange, CIBC clash over frozen accounts". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 8 October 2018.
  23. ^ Posadzki, Alexandra (13 November 2018). "Judge rules with CIBC, grants possession of disputed Quadriga funds to Ontario Superior Court". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 24 January 2019.
  24. ^ Shubber, Kadhim (8 October 2018). "The fintech 'genius' accused in $165m fraud". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  25. ^ Alexander, Doug; Leising, Matthew (26 April 2019). "Crypto Firm Cited in Bitfinex Case Had Also Worked With Quadriga". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  26. ^ Castaldo, Joe; Posadzki, Alexandra (28 February 2019). "Quadriga co-founder served time in U.S. for role in identity-theft ring, documents reveal". Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 1 March 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  27. ^ Alexander, Doug; Robinson, Matt (19 March 2019). "Criminal Past Haunts Surviving Founder of Troubled Crypto Exchange". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  28. ^ Purohit, Dishank (7 February 2019). "Crypto firm CEO with $190 million password did die in Jaipur hospital". Times of India. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  29. ^ Bill, Chappell (4 February 2019). "Cryptocurrency Exchange Says It Can't Access $190 Million After CEO Unexpectedly Died". National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 6 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  30. ^ @CoinDesk (1 February 2019). "After the founder's death, 'Quadriga's inventory of crypto has become unavailable and some of it may be lost,' his widow told the court. She has his laptop, but it's encrypted and she does not have its password or recovery key" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 5 February 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2019 – via Twitter.
  31. ^ a b c "Millions in cryptocurrencies frozen in Canada after only person who had password dies in India". The Hindu. 6 February 2019. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  32. ^ Alexander, Doug (5 February 2019). "Crypto Exchange Founder Filed Will 12 Days Before He Died". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  33. ^ Brend, Yvette (7 February 2019). "Quadriga CEO, whose death ignited a cryptocurrency storm, a kind man with taste for fine things, say friends". CBC News. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  34. ^ Alexander, Doug (1 February 2019). "Crypto Exchange Mystery Deepens as Board Seeks Court Protection". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019.
  35. ^ Posadzki, Alexandra (31 January 2019). "Crypto exchange Quadriga files for creditor protection". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 1 February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  36. ^ Williams, Cassie (9 February 2019). "Quadriga mystery deepens with little evidence of cold wallets containing $250M". CBC News. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  37. ^ Vigna, Paul (7 February 2019). "A Crypto-Mystery: Is $136 Million Stuck or Missing?". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  38. ^ a b Alexander, Doug (1 March 2019). "Quadriga Crypto Mystery Deepens With 'Cold Wallets' Found Empty". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  39. ^ Telford, Taylor. "After founder's sudden death, cryptocurrency exchange can't access $190 million in holdings". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 6 February 2019. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  40. ^ Chappell, Bill (6 March 2019). "Crypto Mystery: Quadriga's Wallets Are Empty, Putting Fate Of $137 Million in Doubt". NPR. Archived from the original on 8 March 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  41. ^ Alexander, Doug; Kharif, Olga (13 February 2019). "Quadriga Accidentally Moved More Bitcoin to an Inaccessible Wallet". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  42. ^ Alexander, Doug (5 March 2019). "Quadriga Founder's Widow Seeks Repayment of Her Costs". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  43. ^ Pearson, Natalie Obiko (15 March 2019). "Quadriga Lawyer Withdraws Amid Conflict of Interest Concerns". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]