Despite their vaunting ambitions to change the world, even the largest crypto projects can fail. From bona fide projects to wildly over-optimistic shitcoins and outright scams, 2019 exacted a heavy toll. To mark such sombre, tragic news, Decrypt asks for a moment of silence for crypto’s dearly—and not-so-dearly—departed.
The collapse of QuadrigaCX dominated crypto news in Canada in 2019. It's the story of an allegedly negligent and lavish CEO dying suddenly in… questionable circumstances, leaving over $130 million unaccounted for.
The death of Gerard Cotten, CEO of QuadrigaCX, left traders without the ability to withdraw their funds from the exchange. Users’ funds on the exchange were all stored on Cotten's hardware wallet; following his death, there was no easy way to access the vast majority of the crypto on the exchange.
QuadrigaCX had a poor year in the run up to Cotten’s death. In January 2018, $22 million worth of crypto on the exchange was frozen by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, as it was unable to track who owned the funds. Trading volume decreased as users struggled to access their funds, further hampering the exchange's profitability—leading to its eventual collapse.
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Ernst & Young are investigating QuadrigaCX's collapse in an attempt to locate the missing funds. According to their reports, Cotten siphoned off millions of dollars using slush accounts—mock accounts that trade fake funds for real user-held funds, with the real funds then being drawn off the exchange. He then allegedly spent these ill-gotten gains on a variety of extravagant purchases, including a fifty-one metre long sailboat, and a plane. In the latest twist to the story, investors want Cotten’s body exhumed to prove that he is, in fact, dead.
Canadian crypto traders have had it tough this year. The Vancouver-based Einstein Exchange shut down recently after running out of money, despite owing customers over $12 million. Now, the British Columbia Securities Commission is stepping in to get users their money back.
The exchange also has an array of allegedly unpaid debts. According to Grant Thornton, the firm acting as interim receiver, Einstein owes $150,000 to its workers, and hasn’t paid companies such as Amazon Web Services. It also has a number of lawsuits against it, including one filed by Amex Bank of Canada, which alleges Einstein owes it $90,000.
Einstein went into lockdown mode when faced with the investigation. The Commission’s lead investigator, Sammy Wu, visited the Einstein offices only to find elevators to every floor locked. Further, upon asking, Einstein's supposed legal counsel told Wu that they no longer represent Einstein.
Seventy-eight current and former employees of the digital asset exchange DX.Exchange recently petitioned for the firm's bankruptcy, alleging that the exchange was owned by the team behind the now-defunct Israeli software provider, SpotOption. SpotOption was raided by the FBI in January 2018, following allegations that the firm was offering "Binary Options", a banned financial product notorious for being used to exploit unsuspecting investors.
DX.Exchange denies any link to SpotOption, but according to the petition it is not only staffed by ex-SpotOption employees; it even operates out of the same office. DX.Exchange claimed to be too expensive to run, and closed down in early November 2019.
In addition, DX.Exchange is being sued by a range of companies that allege that the firm never paid them for services.
Komodore 64 claimed to be riding high this year, loudly touting a purported $85 million investment into the firm by Goldman Sachs. But the money never came through, so the firm was running on the promise of funds that never materialized; staff and rent went unpaid before the firm filed for bankruptcy in October. In November, Komodore’s CEO Sam Narain was arrested.
The Dutch startup’s fall came to a head in October when its associated coin, the K64, became practically worthless—from the September 14 to October 22 the coin fell from $0.0595 to $0.000584.