CEO’s sudden death leaves cryptocurrency exchange without password

Gerald Cotten, 30, died Dec. 9 from complications with Crohn's disease without sharing the password for his encrypted laptop. File Photo by Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE

Feb. 5 (UPI) — Canadian cryptocurrency exchange Quadriga asked for creditor protection this week after the CEO died, leaving the company without access to his laptop and some $190 million in bitcoin, a court filing revealed.

Gerald Cotten, 30, died Dec. 9 from complications with Crohn’s disease without sharing the password for his encrypted laptop. His wife, Jennifer Robertson, said that because of that, the company was unable to access cryptocurrency reserves and has put limits on customer withdrawals.

On Thursday, Quadriga filed for creditor protection in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, saying Cotten was the sole officer and director of the company and most of the business was conducted from his laptop wherever he happened to be located.

The company said that as of the end of January, about 115,000 users had a collective $137 million in cryptocurrency — most in bitcoin — balances with Quadriga and $53 million in government currency. Some of that currency is stored in so-called hot wallets for quick and easy access. Customers keep other, usually bigger, balances in cold wallets stored offline to protect them from hackers.

Quadriga has been unable to access those cold wallets because of the password problem.

“I do not have any documents or records” for the business, Robertson said in the court filing.

“I do not know the password or recovery key,” she added. “Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere.”

She said she hired a security expert to attempt to break into the laptop but that effort was mostly unsuccessful.

Even before Cotten’s death, Quadriga faced challenges completing customer transactions without delays. In early 2018, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce froze about $19.8 million in the company’s funds after saying it was unable to determine who owned money from 465 deposits held in accounts belonging to Quadriga’s payment processor, Costodian Inc.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here