Man Dies, Takes $190 Million Of Customers' Crypto With Him

The money is safe and secure, it's just that the guy who can get it just dropped dead.
Man Dies, Takes $190 Million Of Customers' Crypto With Him

You can't take it with you, but if pharaohs and pirates have taught us anything, it's that you can at least make sure no one else gets their grubby little hands on it either. And now you can add to that paranoid list the CEOs of cryptocurrency companies, because it turns out they could be only one unexpected medical emergency away from donating your whole portfolio to Death itself.

Late last year, Canadian cryptocurrency exchange QuadrigaCX announced that its beloved CEO, Gerald Cotten, had died unexpectedly while working at an orphanage in India, with further information being withheld under the country's Privacy Act. Cotten, a "quiet, serious guy with big plans," left a hole in a lot of people's heart. And now, it's been revealed that he left a hole in a lot more wallets, too. After months of transaction delays, the company has been forced to admit that it can no longer access most of its customers' funds, almost $190 million (or 7 cents, depending on which second you're reading this sentence), because they don't have the password.

Man Dies, Takes $190 Million Of Customers' Crypto With Him
Dan Kitwood/Getty
The ultimate HODL.

While crypto is all about decentralized currency and transcending the stupid restrictions of meat space, keeping that coin boils down to doing exactly that. So in order to protect his customers' funds from hackers, Cotten kept all that crypto money in an offline physical "cold wallet" under his sole control -- the crypto equivalent of a 24-bolt bank vault. Except, and this is a very important distinction, nobody would ever allow the head of Deutsche Bank to insist that only he know the combinations to all their vaults, just in case he Scrooge McDucks himself to death diving into a pile of gold coins.

But when Cotten died, he took with him the one place he felt was safe enough to keep the access codes to that wallet: his brain. So far, all attempts to break the encryption on his laptop have been unsuccessful, and while his employees are panicking trying to recall the dude's first pet's name or find a Post-It in his office that reads "Cryptorulez123456789," the conspiracy theories have already started flying. Which makes sense when a guy in a shady industry with sole access to military coup levels of money dies suddenly and mysteriously, with the only offered proof being a death certificate from a country famed for their easily bribed government officials.

Add to that how Cotten's company wasn't doing great, with tens of millions of its dollars having been frozen while under investigation by the Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce, and that some of that untouchable money is seemingly on the move, and suddenly the best-case scenario for thousands of blockchain masters is that their money is forever encased in an unreachable place and not, say, used to buy barrels of coconut oil on some private island currently being wiped off of Google Maps.

For more weird tangents and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

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