|Headquarters||Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada|
|Key People||Gerald Cotten, Founder, former CEO (deceased)|
|Products||Cryptocurrency trading platform|
Please note: As of at least May 24, 2021 QuadrigaCX no longer existed as the cryptocurrency trading platform described herein, ostensibly the victim of fraud.
QuadrigaCX was a cryptocurrency trading platform based in Nova Scotia, Canada, whose founder, Gerald Cotten, solely held the platform's private keys. Quadriga became illiquid shortly after the 30-year old founder's sudden death in India in December 2018. The company's website went offline on February 5, 2019.
QuadrigaCX was founded in 2013 by Gerald Cotten. Not long afterward it became the largest crypto exchange in Canada. In 2016, Cotten decided to stop QuadrigaCX from being a listed company. Cotten terminated employees of the exchange whom he deemed "law and order folks," according to its one-time accountant, auditor, and regulatory attorney Christine Duhaime of Duhaime Law in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where the company was first located.
In January 2018, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) froze $30 million of QuadrigaCX funds because the bank couldn't identify the owners of those funds. This caused significant decreases in QuadrigaCX's trading volume. By October 2018, is trading volume was $600,000 monthly.
Death of CEO Causes Security Issues
In December 2018, Gerald Cotten, the founder and CEO of QuadrigaCX, died suddenly while traveling in India. He was 30 years old.
Cotten was the sole possessor of the passcodes necessary for accessing the digital assets held by Quadriga on behalf of its customers. He reportedly kept the codes on an encrypted laptop to which his widow, Jennifer Robertson, did not have access. Because of this, QuadrigaCX's customers cannot access the approximately 26,000 bitcoin, 11,000 Bitcoin Cash, 11,000 Bitcoin SV, 200,000 Litecoin, and 400,000 Ether held in cold wallet storage. A ruling from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia said the exchange owed its 115,000 customers roughly CA$250 million (US$190 million) in cryptocurrency and fiat currency.
Robertson, the sole executor of Cotten's will, took out collateral mortgages on four luxury properties in Nova Scotia owned by Robertson and Cotten worth a combined total of $1.1 million. She removed Cotten's name from the ownership documents of all four properties, creating a trust in which she is a trustee. As of February 5, 2019, she also transferred ownership of two of the properties to the trust. These actions were described as "atypical" by people familiar with the matter. Some speculated that this may have been done to protect the properties from being seized by Cotten's creditors. Paul Trudelle, a partner at the Hull & Hull law firm in Toronto, said this may have been done to protect the properties from being seized due to "some fraudulent reason to set side the right of survivorship."
Jesse Powell, CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, said the California-based exchange had some of the balances from QuadrigaCX, although of the 230,000 Ether coins QuadrigaCX supposedly had, only about 1,000 remained in its wallets. Christine Duhaime, a Canadian lawyer specializing in anti-money-laundering laws, said the lack of transparency regarding the missing coins was "unusual," as blockchain technology is supposed to allow for the auditing of companies and crypto transactions in situations like these. Emin Gün Sirer, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts, concurred, telling Bloomberg that the situation "doesn't make sense," because "the one amazing thing about blockchains is that anyone can audit, in essence, any company."
On February 7, the British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) said it could not assist QuadrigaCX's customers. Brian Kladko, who spoke on behalf of the company, said this was because the BCSC "does not currently have any indication that QuadrigaCX...was trading in securities or derivatives or operated as a marketplace or exchange under British Columbia securities laws...as such, the BCSC does not regulate it."
On April 8, 2019, a judge ruled that QuadrigaCX should transition into bankruptcy in the following days.
By the end of 2019, evidence had emerged from investigations into the missing assets suggesting that Cotten overstated the company's revenue. According to the investigation, Cotten created fake accounts and used them to trade counterfeit bitcoin for fiat currency and digital assets. Investigators also found that Cotten transferred investor funds into his own accounts more than once, often to make risky trades on other cryptocurrency exchanges. Cotten's widow agreed to transfer the majority of her assets to Ernst & Young for liquidation, saying she had been unaware of her late husband's financial dealings.
Transactions made after shutdown
On February 8 Coindesk reported that, after reviewing blockchain data, two reporters found that nearly $1 million worth of Ether left QuadrigaCX and went to other exchanges in December between December 2 and 8, just before Cotten's recorded death.
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia-appointed Ernst and Young as monitor on February 5. Ernst and Young reported to the court on February 12, 2019, that on February 6 Quadriga had apparently transferred 103 bitcoins into one of the cold storage wallets from which it cannot withdraw funds.
In late 2019, a conspiracy theory began circulating: Gerald Cotten faked his own death. Referencing "questionable circumstances" around Cotten's death, attorneys representing QuadrigaCX investors requested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police conduct an autopsy on Cotten's body to "confirm both its identity and the cause of death." At the time, no evidence had emerged to suggest that Cotten's death had been faked. Indian authorities insisted that Cotten died on December 9, 2018, shortly after checking into a hotel and complaining of stomach pains. He was taken to a private hospital and later died of cardiac arrest. Medical experts said that while dying of Crohn's disease is extremely rare, it is possible that Cotten suffered from a perforated bowel and went into septic shock. However, the gastroenterologist who treated Cotten in India said that no autopsy had been completed and that he was "not at all" certain about what had happened.
QuadrigaCX successfully filed for creditor protection under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), giving it a month to assess what assets are still in its possession before it is due in court to give a progress hearing. Customers responded by calling for criminal investigations over social media, as well as arguing among themselves over who should be prioritized in retrieving their funds - those who had fiat currency balances in their accounts at the time the exchange went down, or those who primarily had cryptocurrency balances. Some started an unofficial Telegram channel to discuss what should be done. Financial crimes lawyer Christine Duhaime told Coindesk that there should be two firms involved in resolving asset recovery - one to track down customers of QuadrigaCX who were affected, and one to handle the process of litigation for those clients.
A week later Judge Michael Wood of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court said in a court hearing that no decisions would be made regarding representation of creditors for at least a week. Coindesk reported that three legal teams - Bennett Jones with McInnes Cooper, Miller Thomson with Cox and Palmer and Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt with Patterson Law - applied for the position of representative counsel. Another law firm called Goodmans LLP wrote a letter to the court calling for an extended appointment process, saying that a committee of creditors should first be created in order to coordinate litigious actions. The hearing also made a point of addressing issues surrounding professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY), a court-appointed monitor for Quadriga. EY explained in court that its oversight was being funded by a $300,000 lump sum allocated for the oversight process, and that most of it - $250,000 - had already been spent. The firm estimated the rest would last no more than two weeks. EY also said that it had not received funds from the payment processors holding onto Quadriga's fiat balances.
By late February, QuadrigaCX's wallets were nearly emptied and sent to EY, who moved them to cold storage wallets in their possession. The digital assets moved to EY included 51 bitcoins, 951 Ether, 33 Bitcoin Cash, 2,000 Bitcoin Gold, and 822 Litecoins.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) put out a press release on June 3, 2019 saying that the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section were conducting an ongoing investigation seeking to identify victims of the collapse of QuadrigaCX. The FBI put out a questionnaire for the victims which asks for personally identifiable information, the name of the username the victims used on QuadrigaCX.com, whether or not the victims provided personally identifiable information to the exchange, and other questions regarding their trading activities on the former exchange.
EY put out a 70-page report on Wednesday, June 19 claiming that Cotten used millions of dollars worth of his customer's digital assets to trade on other exchanges using fake customer accounts on QuadrigaCX. According to the report, Cotten stole $200 million worth of digital assets from his customers, using the money for personal expenses. The report also said, "there is no indication that the Users were aware that Funds were being utilized in this manner."
In March 2020, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requested information from EY about Quadriga's customers, including financial statements and other business records; corporate legal records; documents related to contractors and other related parties; a list of accounts and wallet addresses, “detailed information” on the fiat and crypto owed to users, analysis on “user specific transaction activities,” and identified accounts. Reception from the former Quadirga users involved with the case was mixed, but Miller Thomson wrote that it would not oppose the move in the interest of expediting the process of getting the users their lost money back.
By May 2020, almost 17,000 people had claimed lost assets from QuadrigaCX, according to an EY document published May 12. The document said that all customer digital assets recovered will be liquidated into either U.S. dollars or Canadian dollars, though the means by which the value of each asset will be determined was not specified.
- Message from QuadrigaCX. QuadrigaCX.
- Quadriga's Former Lawyer Says Founder Rid the Crypto Exchange of ‘Law And Order’ Folks. Bloomberg.
- The complete story of the QuadrigaCX $190 million scandal. Decrypt.
- Cryptocurrency Owners Can't Access Funds After Exchange CEO Dies—Because No One Knows the Password. Fortune.
- QuadrigaCX Owes Customers $190 Million, Court Filing Shows. Coindesk.
- Quadriga founder's widow moved 4 Nova Scotia properties further from creditors' reach. The Chronicle Herald.
- Sleuths Scour for Frozen Quadriga Coins in Crypto Drama. Bloomberg.
- Quadriga Clients Won't Get Help From Regulator on Lost Crypto Millions. Bloomberg.
- QuadrigaCX Officially Enters Bankruptcy With Millions Still Missing. Coindesk.
- Millions vanished with a cryptocurrency entrepreneur’s sudden death. Now investors want his body exhumed.. Washington Post.
- Funds Were Moving From QuadrigaCX Right Before Its Collapse. Coindesk.
- More than $400,000 in QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency disappears into 'cold wallet'. CBC.
- QuadrigaCX Lost Another $500K in Bitcoin By Mistake: EY Report. CoinDesk.
- Millions vanished with a cryptocurrency entrepreneur’s sudden death. Now investors want his body exhumed.. Washington Post.
- A Fight Is Brewing Among QuadrigaCX Crypto Exchange’s Creditors. Coindesk.
- Judge Delays Decision On Legal Representation for Quadriga Creditors. Coindesk.
- QuadrigaCX Has Sent All Its Bitcoin and Ether to ‘Big Four’ Auditor EY. Coindesk.
- Seeking Victims in the QuadrigaCX Investigation. FBI.
- FBI Joins Probe Into Quadriga's $195 Million Crypto Collapse. Bloomberg.
- FIFTH REPORT OF THE MONITOR. Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
- Bankruptcy Trustee to Hand Quadriga Users’ Information to Canadian Taxman. Coindesk.
- Nearly 17,000 Creditors Claim Refunds from QuadrigaCX. Finance Magnates.