Reflecting on Mt. Gox with Andy Pag
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Interview location: Skype
Interview date: Friday 22nd Feb, 2019
Company: Mt. Gox Legal
Role: Creator and Elected Administrator
The Mt. Gox story is incredibly complicated. The first Bitcoin exchange, created at a time when people would buy Bitcoin through eBay or forum discussions, and payment was sent with trust. When it launched it, Bitcoin was trading at $0.06, and within six months Jed McCaleb had passed it onto Mark Karpelès.
Three years after the sale the exchange collapsed when a suspected 850,000 Bitcoins were stolen. Since then the story has unravelled but remains complex, both in finding the truth and resolving what should happen to the remaining Bitcoin.
From the Jed to Mark and what happened with the sale and handover; with Coinlab and Brock Pierce’s claims; with the creditors, the lawyers and the Japanese legal system, finding the truth of what happened and what should happen is highly complex.
In this final interview in my series covering Mt. Gox, I talk to the journalist, Mt. Gox creditor and the creator and elected administrator of Mt. Gox Legal, Andy Pag. We reflect on my interviews and discuss the parties involved, the history of what happened between Jed and Mark, the claims by CoinLab and Brock Pierce and how this may all be resolved.
00:07:35: Involvement with Mt. Gox and creation of Mt. Gox Legal
00:13:22: The present day status of creditor claims and the civil rehabilitation process
00:17:19: Analysing Coinlab’s claim and how it impacts the rest of the creditor claims
00:19:09: Peter Vessenes’ silence in regards to discussing Coinlab’s claim
00:23:24: Potential reasons behind why Coinlab’s claim is $16 billion
00:29:19: Likely scenarios that could play out in relation to Coinlab’s claim
00:38:04: The structure, finance and communication behind Mt. Gox Legal
00:50:59: Interactions that Andy has had with Brock Pierce
00:55:25: Brock’s intentions to submit a civil rehabilitation plan to the Mt. Gox trustee
00:55:59: The possibility of running an ICO on future Mt. Gox recoveries
00:57:25: What are Brock’s overall intentions getting involved in this situation
01:02:18: Claims on Reddit recently from Mt. Gox Transparency that were aimed at Andy
01:03:33: Claim 1, Andy suggested co-operating with Gox Rising
01:06:18: Claim 2, Andy’s income will dry up at the end of March
01:07:53: Claim 3, Andy was trying to arrange a meeting with his lawyer, the trustee and Brock Pierce
01:12:52: Thoughts surrounding Jed McCaleb and the beginning of Mt. Gox
01:15:43: The mystery surrounding the 80,000 Bitcoin hack and the impact this hack had on Mt. Gox
01:23:06: Mark’s handling of Mt. Gox and how much of its failure was down to him
01:32:27: An alternative narrative, in that Mark is just an incompetent businessman
01:39:46: A summary of the current status of the situation and the ideal solution for creditors
01:42:24: Final comments and Andy’s personal reflection on Mt. Gox
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Other relevant WBD podcasts:
WBD079: Brock Pierce on Reviving Mt. Gox
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Peter McCormack: Hi there Andy. How you doing?
Andy Pag: Very well. Thanks very much for inviting me onto your podcast.
Peter McCormack: No worries, thank you for coming on. It’s been quite a couple of weeks actually, very busy and one of the things that I feel right now, is that I almost want to do it all again because I’ve got so much more information and I’ve got so many other questions I want to ask people, but I guess that’s just the nature of this right? Its one big deep rabbit hole.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I think that is very much the journalistic process and is the reason why “right to reply” is such a key part of it because it helps you get further and further into the detail of anything that you’re looking at. Listen, before we go any further, I said this to you privately, but I just want to say it publicly on behalf of Mt. Gox creditors everywhere, thank you so much for having put so much work and done such a comprehensive job over the last week of putting these podcasts together. I think for a lot of creditors they’ll be getting a lot of new information and I think for almost every creditor, there’s something in here that they’re learning for the first time and that’s a really, really valuable thing that you’ve done so big thank you!
Peter McCormack: Wow! Well let me ask you something about that then actually, because, I’ve not thought about it in that level of detail and I’ve assumed all this information’s out there, but I’m guessing, well it isn’t? So what has this done for the creditors that wasn’t publicly available before?
Andy Pag: I think a lot of what’s been covered is out there in different little pockets. I think probably people have sort of selectively chosen to see some bits and disregard other bits. But I think the interview you had with Jed, I think you’ve got some really, eye-opening stuff. I mean I spoke to Jed a little bit before Christmas. I was interviewing for an article in the Sunday Times and he told me some things which I thought were, kind of an admission of guilt or certainly leaves him open to questions about his role in that. In the end, the article that I was writing, I didn’t really get a chance to go down that road with it.
But I think he said similar things to you. I think he was a little bit more guarded, probably kind of having had time to reflect on what he said and kind of reassessing. I think he was a little bit more guarded, but still nonetheless, I think the thing that struck me about that interview is that I think there was potentially some admissions of liability there, which haven’t been in the public domain before.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I guess there were and I hadn’t really overthought it at the time because when I did the interview, that was prior to all these other interviews. I was in San Francisco, somebody made an introduction and said “did I want to interview Jed” and I said yes. Just wanted to find out a little bit about the background to Mt. Gox. I tried to get the interview with Mark about a year ago and it never happened.
So we did the interview, didn’t think about it too much, got back to England and then some stuff started to come out in the press again. So I reached out to Mark. He said yes. Then I kind of thought, well, let’s see if I can get a few people together to talk about this. It’s just kind of all come together very quickly. I almost haven’t had enough time to research. So I talked to you about my Brock Pierce interview that’s going to go live later today. I had to move that a day early because I flew out to Japan to do the interview with Mark and I didn’t have enough time to prepare and there are a couple of times I was definitely caught short or caught in a way where I couldn’t articulate the question or didn’t know the question I wanted to ask.
So in some ways I almost want to do a write up at some point, but that said, we’ve said this show would be a reflection so maybe we can bounce some of my thoughts back and forth between each other. I do know there are a couple things we need to cover first. We need to do a bit of the background for who you are and obviously something’s come up and on Reddit in the last few days. So I’m going to want to ask you about that and give you a chance to respond. But before we get to that, can you just explain your background and your role in Mt. Gox. I’ve obviously read your story about wanting to buy the property, but give me your background in Mt. Gox and then talk me through how you came to be so involved with Mt. Gox legal. Can you just tell me the backstory?
Andy Pag: Yeah. So I think I found out about Bitcoins in early 2013 and thought that this sounds interesting. I didn’t really do much and then the price started to rise and I thought, okay look I’m really missing out here. I’ve got to sit down and sort of understand how this works and I think the big draw for me at the time, it wasn’t the crash, the 2008 crash was still sort of fresh in my mind and here’s this kind of technological solution that kind of made promises to stick it to the bankers and democratize money and that all sounded great. I thought, well, that’s got to be worth a punt, so I sunk a bit of money into Bitcoins.
I did some research, Mt. Gox was the largest exchange out there and so, therefore, I assumed it was the most credible. I was certainly conscious of the fact that exchanges are regularly hacked and all the rest of it. So I sent off some money by wire transfer, bought some Bitcoins with it. I was kind of a HODLer really, I just would look at it from time to time and then the price just went absolutely crazy and it was a lovely feeling. I remember for about, sort of three or four months, every day it was worth more and more and there was a sort of pride and I was a little bit braggy about it with my family and my friends, who were like “oh yeah, how much money have you made today?” And it was just really riding that wave. It’s such an elating feeling!
Then I think the price peaked and it started to drop and I didn’t know what to do. Then the next thing you know Mt. Gox stops withdrawals and then it shuts down completely. I was literally in a state of shock for a good couple of days, just reloading and reloading that Mt. Gox web page and getting the error message coming up and no one having a clue as to what’s going on and Reddit going berserk with all sorts of crazy theories. Then basically after that sat back and watched it unfold for another four years and there were points where you kind of almost forgot about it and certainly gave up on it.
Then the price of Bitcoin, when was it, sort of late 2016, 2017, price starts to climb and I think it was Mark that was on the forums saying, “look, you guys need to get legal advice because if this goes over $2,500, then there’s a surplus”. Mark was telling people that surplus is due to go to shareholders rather than creditors and you guys need to get together, get some legal advice and figure out what to do. I’m based in the UK and what do I know about lawyers in Japan? Certainly, they’re very expensive.
My day job as a journalist kind of came in helpful because I have a very meager profile, but nonetheless, it’s something that people can look me up and see who I am and see that I really exist. So I was able to sort of use that to build some trust amongst people on the Reddit forum, a little core team that we got together and decided, well let’s all chip in 100 bucks and let’s see if we can get this lawyer to look at it. I think we had the target of $10,000 to raise as the sort of first legal fees. We got that within a day and then there was a further set of legal fees, another sort of $30,000. We had that all within a week, which was amazing! Lots of people I think were really hungry for trying to get some proper answers here rather than the lunacy that’s going on, on Reddit.
Through that we were able to get a legal opinion from this lawyer in Japan who’s one of the sort of top bankruptcy lawyers from one of the big four firms in Japan. Through that we were able to sort of see, that okay, well under bankruptcy, these are the rules. It’s dictated by the statute. There’s only so much that the trustee can do, his hands are tied. If there’s a surplus, he has to get that back to the shareholders, i.e. Mark and Jed, but there’s this other process called civil rehabilitation. This hasn’t really been done before. Certainly not on this scale, but potentially it means that the benefits can be shared amongst creditors. But even that, is complicated because no one can lose out when you go from bankruptcy to civil rehabilitation. If you’ve got a Bitcoin claim, your Bitcoin claim under bankruptcy is only worth $400, $450, $480, whatever it is in Yen.
When you move that to civil rehabilitation, you can sort of value your claim differently and your value increases. But if you’ve got a fiat claim, your value decreases or it would do. So we had to sort of get together a load of documents and present them to the trustee and to the court to say, “we as Bitcoin creditors do not object to fiat creditors getting 100% of their claim under civil rehabilitation, as they would have under bankruptcy”, if we moved to civil rehabilitation, even though we as Bitcoin creditors, were arguably kind of getting less in Bitcoin terms. Even just talking about it and I know this inside out, even just talking about it gets me confused. But essentially it was quite a difficult process because all creditors have to be treated equally and what we’re doing by moving to civil rehabilitation actually is a bit of a fudge on that, but we’ve shown that there is consent from Bitcoin creditors to allow that fudge, in order to be able to move that because ultimately it’s in everybody’s interest.
So that process is underway. It’s interesting everybody kind of constantly refers to the fact that civil rehabilitation is done and dusted. It’s not quite done and dusted. What happened in June was that the trustee approved the commencement of civil rehabilitation and that’s a process where he has to open up claims again. So everybody gets to file in their claim one more time. Then he assesses all those claims and then submits what is called a CR plan to the courts, for the court to approve.
Now anyone can submit a civil rehabilitation plan and at the end of this deadline, which I think is coming up at the end of April, the trustee will submit that and anyone else can submit civil rehabilitation plans. Creditors vote on that and if any plan gets more than 50% of the vote based on the value of your claim, then it gets approved. So from our point of view, we’re very concerned that, the more plans are submitted, the less likely it is that any single one plan gets the consensus. There is already going to be some sort of natural wastage of some people not being aware or understanding that there’s a vote and the importance of it.
So what I’ve been doing and what our group has been doing is really trying to focus on making sure that all the interested parties, were all lobbying the trustee to affect the single plan that he’s going to put in. Rather than trying to sort of branch off and say, “well, screw that, I’m going to come up with my own plan”. So it’s quite important for creditors because this isn’t a done deal yet. It’s quite important I feel that there’s only one plan that goes forward and we’re in the process of lobbying the trustee and saying that this is what creditors want you to put into this one plan. So that when the time comes to vote, there isn’t any confusion and we don’t end up not having a civil rehabilitation plan approved, because in that case we go back to bankruptcy, which means that instead of getting a percentage share of all the assets, we as Bitcoin creditors only get $485 per Bitcoin.
The way the price is at the moment, that’s about less than half of the claim we would have under civil rehabilitation. So there’s a big interest there for Bitcoin creditors to make sure that this process goes ahead and Bitcoin creditors are by a long way the vast majority, both by number and by value of this whole bankruptcy proceedings. So that’s one of the things that we’re doing at Mt. Gox Legal. Another very important issue is this idea of zombie claims, I call them, so called self-assessment claims. So under civil rehabilitation rules, the trustee arguably has an obligation to make sure that everybody that could claim is represented, even if they didn’t get their claim in on time.
So what that means is he’s going to look at the database and he’s going to generate a claim for everybody, even if they didn’t actually file a claim. For all of those people that didn’t file a claim, he’s going to keep money aside for them for 10 years and if they don’t claim it in that time, he’s going to give that to the Japanese treasury. Now this adds up to somewhere between 10–20% of the total value. So effectively it’s a hit of 10–20% on all Bitcoin claims, while we want to make sure that all creditors get a fair shot at submitting a claim. What we don’t want to do is see 10–20% of the value going to the Japanese state.
So one of the things, again we’re doing with our lawyer is we’re filing an objection to self-assessment claims, in order to try and stop that process. Then the third big thing that we’re doing at the moment, well actually there’s a few more, but the third sort of main thing that we’re doing at the moment, is looking very intensely at Coinlab’s claim and just trying to understand what the dynamics are around that. Now as creditors, I think the ugly truth is that there’s not really a great deal that we can do. The trust that we can make representations to the trustee, but the trustee has an obligation to treat all creditors equally. Even those that don’t have an approved claim, like Coinlab’s claim at the moment has been rejected, so it’s an unapproved claim.
But there’s a process that can now go through and that process poses a number of problems with creditors. The first thing is that it’s a process that could take up to four or five years. Secondly, depending on how that process unfolds, it could potentially hold up any kind of distribution to creditors during that time. Now there’s a few factors that really at the moment, all we as creditors can do is, is try and get a grip and a handle on what those factors are, in order that we can plan for what the likely eventualities are. There are some people that I’m in touch with, that are planning legal action in the hope that that can shape the outcome.
But I have to be honest, I’m not hugely optimistic that that’s going to be possible. I mean, you haven’t spoken with Peter Vessenes on your podcast. I don’t favour his claim in any way, but it might be worth me putting the argument, for Vessenes to use, so you can see why it’s such a difficult issue. I’m conscious, I’m just talking uninterrupted. so feel free to dive in if I’m rambling on!
Peter McCormack: Well, so interestingly about Peter Vessenes, I have tried to reach out to him a number of times. Actually a year ago when I saw the AMA by Mark, I put a note up there saying, “look I’d love to have you on the podcast”. Mark replied to said, “yeah, he’ll email me”. Then I got approached by somebody to interview Peter. I think by somebody who ran his PR communications, which I responded and said, “yeah, sure, happy to do it”. Then nothing came of it and then obviously these interviews have happened. I’d love to have Peter on. I think I’m a fair interviewer. I think I’ll give everyone a fair chance. I think it’s an important part of the story now.
Andy Pag: Sorry to talk over, but when was that? How long ago was that?
Peter McCormack: Well, if you think he did the AMA in March or April last year. Pretty much straight away they got in touch, very close to flying out to I think it’s Seattle or somewhere to go and do it. Then it didn’t happen for whatever reason, I think possibly because I wanted to do the Mark interview first and then the Mark interview never happened. So it just didn’t happen. Now I have emailed Peter and I know he’s seen the emails or somebody has, because I use a email client called Polymail and it just tells you when something’s been read. So the emails have been read by him or somebody else. I don’t know. But there’s been no reply. I don’t know if he’s listening to these. I would hope he would come on. I’d hope you’d discuss it. I don’t know if he legally can. I don’t know because it’s a legal case, whether he can….
Andy Pag: I suspect that legally it wouldn’t be in his interest to put any information into the public domain that might influence the outcome of what is a lot of money at stake. So I suspect he is wisely keeping his counsel.
Peter McCormack: Also, the court of public opinion is firmly against him. I’ve not met or spoken to a single person who thinks there’s any validity to his claim. I tried to sit on the fence with it. I could try to say, “well look, I know he did have an agreement of sorts. He didn’t have his money transmission license but he did have an agreement of sorts”. I don’t know the details of what happened at the time.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. That is the court of public opinion and that is very much the received wisdom and I’ve been trying to look at it to get a bit more detail and I think on balance that was probably the right position.
However, what’s worth knowing is that Peter Vessenes’ lawyers are contingency based lawyers. So they looked at this case and they’ve decided, look there are some elements here that are winnable and we are going to invest our time and effort into that. They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t feel that there was good grounds. There are a couple of elements that they probably think are winnable. One is that there is a liquidation damages clause in the contracts, which basically says if you walk away from this contract, you have to pay the other party $50 million.
That’s in the contract to act as a deterrent for people walking away and liquidation damages typically the way they’re adjudicated on in US courts, this is what I’ve been told, is that you put in a massive number in the contract, but actually when it comes to fighting over it, the judge will say, “well, clearly, you didn’t really lose out 50 million and you get this much”. But in fairness, it is in black and white and it is a contract that everybody signed in and that liquidation clause is in there. It may be that the Japanese lawyers kind of look at that in a slightly more literal sense that they would do in a US case.
Then there’s a second aspect of their case, which according to the contract as I understand it, was that there were fees due from US clients, which Mt. Gox never paid to Coinlab. So they probably feel that that is another winnable aspect. Then there’s a whole load of other guff, which is that Peter Vessenes wanted to set up a Bitcoin exchange and curses, if hadn’t been for the day he met Mark Karpeles, he’d be the guy sitting on top of a business as big as Coinbase and therefore Mark Karpeles (Mt. Gox) owes him that. That’s pretty speculative, to put it mildly. But that’s the bit of the claim which ends up rolling into $16 billion, which is just an obscene amount of money.
Peter McCormack: Well Coinbase isn’t even worth that!
Andy Pag: Yeah, I think we’ve kind of looked at it several different ways and just doing all the mental, mathematical gymnastics that you can do, to try and go where can we add money…. Is still really hard to see how he gets to $16 billion. There are a couple of legal strategy reasons why they might have come up with this figure. One is that it’s bigger than the whole of the estate and therefore it blocks distribution.
So if they come back and said, “well, our claim is $50 million in the liquidation damages and $25 million in unpaid fees”. The trustee could say, “all right, we’re going to argue about that, but we’ll put money aside to cover it in case we lose and in the meantime we’ll distribute the rest to creditors and they’ll get an interim distribution”. But having come back and said, we want $16 billion, the trustee can’t put $16 billion to one side because there’s nothing left. So it makes this case the priority and it means that nothing else can move until this is dealt with. The process that’s going to happen in Japan, is that first of all, they submit a claim which they’ve done and the trustee looks at it. That gets rejected.
Then they go to this process called assessment. I think it’s a little bit like arbitration and I think there’s a third party that oversees the process, not really adjudicates on it. I’m not quite sure how it works, but they were a fair way through that under bankruptcy and there are documents in the public domain that relate to the relative cases and partial documents that relate to the relative cases they were making.
I think where I do find confidence in the fact that this is ultimately going to be kicked out is that both the trustee and Coinlab’s lawyers both got experts to testify, because ultimately all comes down to were they licensed to act as an exchange at the time they were doing it, which is a grey area. There are sort of different shades of grey on this. It was at the very early days in Bitcoin and there wasn’t really regulation firmly established around it and what gives me sort of confidence is that the trustee, his big fear in all of this is taking some sort of misstep, which then at the end of it all comes back to bite him on the ass. So he is taking a very cautious and neutral approach.
So the expert that he’s got, I’m assuming that the brief he gave that expert was, just give me the clear cut idea of was going on here. That expert comes back and looks at the facts, looks what Coinlab had done, the agreement and he says, “look based on this, there were all these states where they should been licensed and they weren’t. There was federal rules governing this which they didn’t comply to and they were a long way shy of the mark”. I’m paraphrasing and read it for yourself, it’s online.
Coinlab also went and got a lawyer. Now Coinlab, their lawyers are under a different set of constraints. Their constraints are to win the case, not to find a neutral objective position because the trustee knows that if he goes too hard one way, his law firm will get sued by Coinlab. If he goes too far the other way, he’ll get sued personally by the creditors who are angry. So his real motivation in all this is to steer a really, really neutral path that is beyond any kind of reprehension. The opinion that the expert whose brief the trustee gave to him, comes back and says that they fell shy of the mark. Obviously coin lab, the brief they’d given their expert, is that we want to win this case and looking at exactly the same set of facts, a different expert comes up with 180 degree polar opposite opinion that actually Coinlab were doing more than they needed to in order to comply with licensing and regulation.
If they were licensed and regulated properly, then Mark had no right to break the contract and is liable for all this money. If they didn’t, then Coinlab can go whistle for this money because they’re not entitled to it. Any of it. I’ve seen some of the emails, the back and forth as well and it’s interesting, I’ve heard your interview with Mark. I’ve met Mark a few times. I’ve email with him pretty regularly. He’s a very helpful source of information at times, but also can be quite awkward and you can get the sense that he is helping you up to a point and there are things that he’s holding back and sometimes it’s unclear what the motivation for holding that back or if indeed is holding that back.
It can be a quite frustrating process working with Mark and it’s quite interesting reading through these emails between Vessenes and Coinlab that you get a sense that actually, here’s Vessenes, he’s trying to set up this business and he’s kind of being frustrated a little bit by that sort of approach that Mark has to business. You can choose to see that in one of two ways. One is that Vessenes was a very serious businessman and that Mark was a bumbling amateur. The other is that actually Vessenes was trying to do some shortcuts here a little bit sort of Del Boy, “yeah, we probably need to get licenses but we can probably get away without them”. Mark on the other end is being upright and saying “well actually no, you haven’t done it the right way. The reason I’ve entered into this very generous agreement with you is because I just want someone to take care of this 100% so that we’re fully licensed and we don’t have any problems”. So there’s two ways of looking at it.
Ultimately what’s going to happen is that it’s going to go into that assessment process. At the end of that assessment process, this arbitration process, if they can’t find any common ground, maybe that requires reaching a settlement. Maybe there’s some other solution, I don’t know. Then it goes to litigation and it can go through three phases; the Tokyo district courts, the appeals court and the High Court and all of that could take years. Now there is a saving grace here, which is that after this arbitration process, if they want to take it further, they have to pay court fees and those court fees are sort of proportional to the size of their claim.
So if they turn up at court and say, yeah, we want to claim for the full $16 billion, then actually their court fees are quite high. They’re in the sort of tens of millions of dollars. So they have to be pretty sure of those arguments in order to proceed any further. But, they might have that stage say, well look, let’s drop this pie in the sky stuff and let’s just stick with the stuff that we can win. That reduces that claim potentially down to a much more affordable “size” to the point where the trustee can say, “all right, well again, I’ll ring-fence that money in case we lose this and in the meantime I can distribute money to creditors”. So there is a hope that this process will lead to a situation where Coinlab are once again fighting this out, like they were in the bankruptcy, but they’re not holding the rest of us to ransom, while they do it.
Peter McCormack: Well, one of the things I suspected or kind of thought about was perhaps a settlement they would be happy with is Coinlab to hold them to the 5 million that they allegedly owe back to Mt. Gox. Because admitting no fault at all would require that money to be repaid and that’s not a small amount of money and I wondered if that’s part of the thinking too.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I don’t know. Ultimately if a settlement does come up, it’s going to be a decision that the trustee will take on behalf of creditors. I think a settlement like that for monies paid, can be quite difficult because Coinlab’s lawyers are contingency lawyers and they’re requiring a win in order to get paid. I don’t know how much of that $5 million is left. If that leaves Vessenes wiped out, which the rumours I’ve heard is that he is pretty much bankrupt or certainly doesn’t have this kind of money, then that leaves him with nothing to pay his lawyers. So I think it’d be difficult for him to accept that.
I think he needs to either walk away losing or winning something. I think it’s difficult. I suspect, I don’t know, I’m sort of joining dots that are pretty far apart here, but I suspect that it’s very difficult for him to just walk away from this, which is why there are a few kind of people I know of that are sort of looking at ways to publicly highlight what he’s doing as a way of encouraging him to drop it. I just am not convinced that’s going to work and even legal action against him.
Again, I just think if I’ve understood the situation correctly, I just don’t see how that’s going work because ultimately if he turns around to his contingency lawyers and says, “look thanks very much for all the hard work over the last two years, I’m dropping this.” They’re going to say to him, “okay, well in that case, you have to pay us for the last two years worth of work” and where’s that money coming from? So I don’t know that there’s a mechanism where everybody gets to do the right thing and come away smelling of, maybe not of roses, but at least not of manure.
In terms of a settlement and just in terms of creditors sentiment, Mt. Gox Legal, which is kind of organization, this co-operative of creditors, which grew out of that initial funding round and sharing this lawyer is now up to over a thousand creditors. A couple of times I run polls. I like to think we’re a very democratic organization. I had set up essentially a board of governors, three people that oversee what I do and we have debates and we have polls about different things and that’s how we came up with our suggestions which are outlined in our CR plan that we sent to the trustee.
But one of the other polls that we ran is, if given the choice between this dragging on for another three or four years or making a settlement with Vessenes, how much money would you feel is a reasonable amount to make? There was some people that said 5 million, 10 million. But on the whole there’s a real sense of anger and animosity about this and it really does feel that Vessenes is really trying to take advantage of the situation and we’re not going to give an inch even if it means holding on for years and years.
So that’s the sentiment of creditors that I read. I don’t know whether the trustee would be swayed by that, it’s maybe a little bit more, sort of objectively level headed, there’s less pride involved. He might see that if there is an opportunity of paying Vessenes’ legal costs that gets him off the hook with his lawyers, for a few hundred thousand or whatever it is, let’s and dusted and move on. I think that’s fair to say that everybody in this story wants it over with.
Peter McCormack: Well, I hope he reaches out to me at some point or another and I get to have him on and discuss it with him.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I hope so too because I don’t want to be the only one doing PR for Peter Vessenes! I hope that doesn’t come across as me sort of defending or justifying his position. But I think it’s important to understand the sort of dynamics around this situation, not because specifically there’s something creditors can do. But I think it just helps in terms of managing expectations of how this situation might flow out.
Peter McCormack: I think balance is important. So hopefully he will and hopefully he’ll come at some point. Maybe it’s down the line. Maybe he’ll come on at some point after the process is over, but we’ll see. But thank you for doing that because that is really useful because I’ve only heard negative sentiment towards Peter, but nobody’s actually giving him the benefit of the doubt and try to explain the situation. So that’s very useful.
Andy Pag: Just to be clear, I’ve got no sympathy for his lawsuit! From what I’ve seen about, it doesn’t stand up. This opinion that the trustee has got, I am sure that the trustee approached getting that opinion in a really objective way and it clearly says he was out of line and I think that that is the bedrock that we can cling to. Whether the legal system takes five years overcoming to that same conclusion or not is not something I have as much faith in unfortunately.
Peter McCormack: I think the only benefit of it taking another five years is sometimes I question whether the length of this case has made the ultimate hodl. Have you ever had the honest conversation with yourself about whether it’s been more profitable for you to be stuck in this process? Than having free reign to kind of buy and sell your Bitcoin because there is the potential that if you’d had the opportunity, you might have sold at different prices. You might have sold at $2,000 or something and by the time this process is over, it could be up to like a $20,000 Bitcoin.
Andy Pag: I think there was definitely that conversation last year when it was up around almost $20,000. I think you’re absolutely right though, in honest moments there’s almost a sort of gratitude for this whole thing, but you know, it’s only over when it’s over and between now and another four years time, who knows where the price of Bitcoin will be. It’s interesting that there is a real sort of groundswell amongst creditors that they want their Bitcoins back. They don’t want the trustee to sell them. With hindsight, you could argue, actually that wasn’t a great decision because the trustee was thinking about selling them when the price was up around $10,000, $8,000. That looks pretty appealing right now and then you know how much money you’ve got waiting for you at the end of this process.
But I think a lot of people, especially the sort of people that had Bitcoin back in 2013, they believe in Bitcoin and they want their Bitcoin. Also, I think for some of them there’s a whole bunch of dodgy tax reasons and personal finance reasons and people want their Bitcoin. But actually, that’s taking on a huge risk, a huge kind of future risk. But that is very much the consensus of creditors.
Peter McCormack: All right, well listen, there’s a bunch more to unpack. I want to talk a little bit about Mt. Gox Legal. I also want to talk about the thing that came up on Reddit because I think it’s important to get that out.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Peter McCormack: So before we do delve into that, can you just explain to me what is the legal structure of Mt. Gox Legal? What is the structure of the team behind it? How was it financed? What does it cost to run and how does the group communicate?
Andy Pag: Yeah, there’s no legal structure essentially. I mean from a legal point of view, people send me personally a donation. I spend that on lawyers and then I report back to people. Ultimately if I wanted to grab all the money that’s in the account and there’s been, I think best part of $300,000 over the last 18 months has gone through that account. If I wanted to grab all that money and disappear off to Mexico, actually I think it’d be pretty hard for anyone to do anything about it. Not for a minute that I’m entertaining on doing that. But just to explain that there isn’t a sort of formal legal structure, it’s very much based on trust and that’s worked very well so far.
In terms of how we communicate, we have a forum and the way it grew up was that everyone chips in 100 bucks to get this first legal opinion and essentially to access the forum, it’s the same deal. You pay 100 bucks and you can access that forum. There’s a wealth of information and insight on there, which isn’t in the public domain and I would very much like it to be in the public domain. But ultimately that information has come about thanks to the funds raised by the people who have contributed and it’s fair on them that they have access to that information.
Now if they choose to share outside the group and that’s on them. Then at certain points, we’ve had I think about three or four times in the past 18 months, we’ve had fundraisers where we’ve needed to hit specific targets to achieve specific things. At that point it, there’s a recommended donation amount based on how much we need to raise and how many active users there are. People can choose to donate or not donate to that point. If they choose not to donate, they don’t get penalized in any way. They still get to stay in the forum and they still get to be part of that information flow. They still get to suggest the structures of how the group is managed. If they donate, it’s great, we have the money to achieve what we need to do. So in total we probably end up getting through around, £10,000 a month. That’s mostly on legal fees.
I also take a stipend from that because I work full time on it and that’s something that we discussed with the group. Initially, I was doing it part-time and then it just became so onerous, I had to actually leave my job at the BBC and focused on this full time. It’s fair to say there are times the weeks go by where I have to do very little and there are other weeks where it’s pretty hectic. But ultimately the only way to manage that flexibility…. There isn’t another sort of job that I could fit in around this really and so I do need to take a full-time stipend out of it. I think a lot of people accept that that’s actually a worthwhile investment, especially split over a thousand plus creditors. I think some people kind of resent that and in a way that’s fine.
If when the fundraising rounds come up, they don’t feel that’s a fair use of the money, they can either contribute proportionately less or they can contribute not at all. They have that choice to do that. As you say, on Reddit the last couple of days, I think there’s one or maybe two people that… I think there’s a bunch of IDs that all look like they were set up the same time, that have been very vocal. Not so much I think about me being paid, but about the fact that I might be biased in some way or trying to engineer the outcome of the group in order to achieve something that benefits me personally in the long term. I can see how there would be an opportunity for me to take advantage of the situation, but actually not really. Everything I represent to the trustee and request a lawyer to look at, is kind of dictated by the conversations that come out of the group and the votes and the polls that we have in the group.
So specifically what I think is one of the issues at the moment, is that I think there are possibilities and they may be slim possibilities, but there are possibilities that after CR is all done and dusted and the bankruptcy that dealt with or even while that’s still ongoing, there may be opportunities to make other recoveries. So there may be legal action against people that were responsible in some way, shape or form. They may be funds that are being discovered by law enforcement around the world and they may well come a time where there is a pot of money that someone says this was taken from Mt. Gox who do we give it to? If at that point civil rehabilitation is done and dusted and finished, there’s nobody that can take that money and distribute it fairly to all creditors. Then that pot becomes an opportunity for the people, the creditors that have good lawyers and good money and good information, they can swoop in and seize that and say, “well, I was a creditor, give some to me”. Until a small number of people get the benefit of that. I think it’s a conversation that creditors needs to be having now.
My big concern is that we should have some kind of legal entity that continues to exist after civil rehabilitation has finished because I think it’s important that there is a body that can distribute any files fairly. Now that body is going to need to be funded in some way, shape or form. No-one’s going to do it as a charity. But, it may be that it’s just a bureaucratic process, it’s just a sort of Fig Leaf legal entity but something that just exists on paper and doesn’t really require much in the way of an accountant to do its accounts once a year or something…. A few hundred quid kind of size scale thing. Or it may be that creditors decide, look, we want to pour money into this. We want to have a team of hard arsed investigators going out to every corner of the world and we’re going to spend millions on doing this. Or anything on this scale in between. That sliding scale depends on your appetite for risk and how likely it is that there are future recoveries.
It may well be that the most appropriate thing is for something to be small. Now I think some people, there’s been this kind of explosion on Reddit and someone’s even gone to the extent of setting up a website to expose the hypocrisy behind what I’m doing. Some people think that I’m actually trying to engineer this situation because I can see a cushy job for myself or in some way I can see some role for myself or some advantage for myself in that future body. That’s not my intention. I like to think at this point, I’m pretty well enough connected that if any pots in the future sort of did come up. I’d probably be amongst the few well-informed creditors that would be able to take advantage of it.
So if anything, I actually have an active interest in not having an ongoing body. It’s actually really horrible. I mean I’ve just been through a couple of days of just reading some really nasty things. I mean like some really insulting, nasty things about me on Reddit, which I just 100% don’t recognize and are a real kind of misrepresentation of what I’ve said in the past and part of me kind of thinks it’s a hatchet job. Apart of me thinks, no, actually look maybe there are some valid concerns here that I haven’t addressed and it just requires more communicating and I’m trying to do that now over the next few days with the people.
Peter McCormack: But do you know what Andy, it’s a complicated situation. It’s so complicated! I’ve been trying to understand it all and work through everything. There are so many conflicting opinions. There’s so many conflicting stories, there is so much information and sometimes a lack of information or titbits of information. Then you’ve got people who are kind of anonymously talking online and probably people don’t really understand maybe how much work you are doing in the background and maybe you’ve made some mistakes or maybe you’ve not communicated things in the right way, but it doesn’t feel like Reddit is ever going to be the place to solve certain issues relating to this
Also, I guess there’s never really been a situation like this. I don’t think there’s ever been a situation where a company has gone into bankruptcy and then during the bankruptcy process, the assets are suddenly become worth $1 billion and there are 24,000 people around the world who need fighting for, to deal with the Japanese courts. It’s like a unique situation of so many different complexities. I think sometimes maybe, potentially people just kind of get the wrong end of the stick.
Andy Pag: Yeah. I do this as a fulltime job. I sit across this stuff and even I struggle to keep up with it. The forum that we have is a really good source of information. But if you are just signing up to it today, it’s like being hit by a waterfall. I mean, you know, where to start! There is a lot to keep up with and it’s difficult because there’s not really an easy way to distill things down and all these situations are constantly evolving as new bits of information get added to the picture. It’s almost like if you haven’t been on this wave since it started, getting on it now, good luck with that because it’s difficult. I suppose in many ways that is the bulk of my job really, just trying to calm down people that are sort of putting two and two together and coming up with something else and just kind of trying to keep everybody on track with what seems viable information and what is more or less reliable.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so a lot of this stuff that came on Reddit comes about from Brock Pierce as well. Obviously I’ve interviewed him, I’ve spoken to him, my least favorite of the interviews. I’ll share with you my thoughts on him as we try and sum up towards the end, but there was obviously some background to this. Brock has spoken to you, he’s come to you, he’s got an idea. I guess you’ve been open minded or receptive because, I think you have a duty to listen to any suggestion, right? So can you give a background to your interactions with Brock, how it came about and how you dealt with his suggestions.
Andy Pag: Do you know what I was all set to come here and to write a hatchet job on Brock. Then I heard your interview with him and he says such lovely things about me.
Peter McCormack: So the other thing is about Brock, I think he may say nice things about somebody if he sees them as a potential ally.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right.
Peter McCormack: So when I was with Mark, Mark told me and by the way, I trust Mark to tell the truth on certain things. Other things, I think he may bend the truth a bit for self-preservation. But he said that Brock came out to Tokyo, met with him and said “I can help rebuild your profile, rebuild your reputation”. Then he’s come online and he’s done nothing but absolutely hate on Mark and then he’s tweeted some pretty hateful things. So I wonder if Brock sees you as a potential ally and therefore that’s why he’s being nice. Then when you’re not an ally, he won’t be. Does that make sense?
Andy Pag: No, it absolutely does and I think you’re absolutely right. I would just add that I think he thinks I’m a nice guy because he’s a very good judgment in people! No, more seriously, I think that’s exactly what he does. I think he tells people exactly what he thinks they want to hear. I think that’s a big part of the problem that he’s unwittingly led me into, in that I had a conversation…. There’s a huge amount of unclarity about what he’s proposing, despite his protestations and it changes literally from one day to the next. I think that’s a reflection of the fact that he got into this without being particularly well informed, without being particularly aware of the existing creditor groups already.
He sort of barged in thinking, I’m going to solve all this and he’s slowly been coming to terms with the fact that, “oh, actually a lot of has already been solved and I’m kind of surplus to requirements”. I think a lot of the confusion is him sort of backtracking and making sense of that. But I think you’re absolutely right. I think everybody that I’ve spoken to that he’s discussed with, have said the same thing that he’s promised all sorts of wonderful things and then it’s turned out to be complete nonsense.
I spoke to him and whenever anyone sort of new appears on the scene, there’s instantly this kind of backlash amongst creditors, “who is this guy? He’s suspicious, what their motivations and how are they going to try and rip us off in some way”. I think it’s good to have some scepticism about these things, but my approach is, “all right, well let’s approach this with a cautious, open mind. Let’s see what’s on offer. Let’s get into a dialogue”. That’s worked well in the past when there have been multiple creditor groups that are all vying to do different things. Rather than think of each other as rivals, actually let’s get together. Let’s have a discussion. Let’s sort of see what you’re trying to do, what we’re trying to do, make sure that those things work together and build on it.
So I kind of approached Brock very much in that light and when I spoke to him on the phone, despite all the things that were online, he gave me a very convincing story that, all he wants to do is buy the exchange, that’s great. Then there’s this other organization that’s attached onto him. They’re interested in going after recoveries and that has to be a creditor owned and a creditor managed enterprise, which I think is absolutely right. As far as that goes, I don’t see any reason to quibble with it. If he wants to buy Mt. Gox, ultimately that’s between him and the trustee. Go and speak to the trustee, take a pile of cash with you and buy whatever you want.
He says he’s going to give 16% of that to creditors as well. That just means he’s going to buy it for 16% less. All right, fine, if creditors want 16% of a highly dubious business interest then maybe that’s something that the trustee needs to put it to them. So all that part is fine and he wants to submit a CR plan. He definitely did. The people I spoke to that were surrounding him at least, they definitely came to me saying, “we’re definitely going to submit this CR plan” and it was me that said, “have you got any Japanese counsel? Do you realize if you submit the CR plan, you risk splitting the vote and then we go back to bankruptcy. Do you realize how risky that is? Actually nothing you’re suggesting in your CR plan isn’t already on the table and the trustee isn’t already aware of”. So then you saw them step back from that.
Then literally over the course of the weekend I spoke to Brock, “Yeah, brilliant, this is all going to be great. Everything’s wonderful. We want to support the trustee. We’re going to give your organization a load of money as well. I’m just working out all the funding, it’s all going to be wonderful. Let me put you in touch with the guys that I’m working with on this, this is my close team”. Then the guys that he’s working with get into a little telegram group and then the first thing they say is “yeah, ultimately what we’re looking to do is an ICO on future recoveries”. And I’m like, “well actually there’s a huge number of problems with that”.
Firstly from a statutory point of view. If I’m a victim of Mt. Gox and you give me a Gox coin to make that claim and I sell it to someone who has nothing to do with Mt. Gox, I still have a legal right in a court to say I was a victim of Mt. Gox and I want to share that. So that Gox coin is statutorily, I just don’t see how that could work, because he’d have to have this across global jurisdiction. I just don’t get how that would work. Then there’s the other thing is that why do we need a Gox coin? Actually is this is just a mechanism for putting yourself in the middle of something which doesn’t need you, and maybe if you put this proposal to creditors and you present it in a way that makes sense to them, you can build consensus for it. I’m not saying that it’s not the thing to do. It’s not something that appeals to me. But I think it is very clearly the sort of…. I don’t want to say hidden motivation, but I think the idea that he wants to rebuild this exchange and thinks it’s a viable business.
That just doesn’t make sense to me. I haven’t spoken to anyone to whom it does make sense, but whatever, he’s got the money, go ahead and do it. But if you then tack on this idea of going to be behind a Gox coin. I know he denied it on your interview. Again, I just wonder if that’s him changing his coat to fit the weather? I just can’t make sense of what he is suggesting. But ultimately, I think he’s been kind of narrowed down and corralled to the point where he’s not really suggesting or proposing anything. I kind of wouldn’t be surprised if in the next or two or three weeks we just quietly didn’t hear any more about him.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I think you might be right. I mean what I took from the interview, which was a very strange one and I’ve had two or three like that in my history of podcasting. I’m not a journalist like you, I’m just somebody that fell into this. But I tend to find the people I trust least, I have the most difficult conversations with and people who tend to say things like “I just care about Bitcoin” or “I just care about the name”, and people that tend to say things like, “Oh, I’ve done so much for Bitcoin” and “I’ve got the most companies”, they’re always adding some kind of validation to their actions because their actions are usually are nefarious.
So I just found it very strange. I didn’t trust what is incentives are. I assume it’s just personally financially motivated. That’s all I can think it can be and a number of the accusations that he made against Mark, as sadly I didn’t have the information at the time or I wasn’t fully up to speed to be able to challenge him. But when he’s talked about Mark, say for example, his goal is to stop Mark getting any money out of this. Then I was made aware that it was Mark, who had let the creditors know that there’s this potential situation where the shareholders will have funds which are due to them after the bankruptcy. So it seems to be that Mark, despite everything that has happened, Mark actually wants to just kind of bury this and he wants to creditors to get the best deal possible. Yet Brock’s here kind of shouting and making accusations that that’s not true.
Andy Pag: Yeah, I don't want to…having defended Peter Vessenes, I don’t want to sort of leap in and just be the defender of all the people that are poorly regarding this in this affair. But, I’m just saying maybe and I’m conscious of the fact that if I defend Brock, I leave myself open for this accusation that I’m in his pocket in some way, which I absolutely am not. But I don’t know.
Apparently he’s got $1 billion in various deals or maybe not depending on who you believe, but if I had a ton of money and I didn’t know what to do with it, then maybe I would think about collecting vintage exchanges. Like some people collect vintage cars and maybe all I’d want to do with that money, is sort of make myself the hero of the day and maybe this is the fantasy that I’d latch on in order to achieve that. So maybe we can take him at face value. It doesn’t make sense to me. Ultimately in a way, I’m kind of sick of talking about Brock bless him. It doesn’t matter. He’s not in a position to have any influence over this process really, other than bringing a load of cash to the trustee and buying an exchange if that’s what he wants to do.
I think at this point, any CR plan he launched is kind of tainted. It’s a pity because he could’ve come to the whole thing a lot more thoughtfully, could have first of all reached to all the various players. Actually him and Daniel Kelman have had a terrible spat online, but actually the pair of them, when it comes to putting their heads together and going after Vessenes, I think they would be a formidable team. Unfortunately, I just can’t see thats going to happen now because of the personal differences.
They’re both apparently working on something along those lines in different directions. If he’d come and sort of approached everyone, and said, “look, this is what I’m thinking, what do you think? What have you done so far? Okay, well maybe I can support it this way. Maybe I can support it that way”. Then he would absolutely be the hero of the hour and everyone would be carrying him around on a plinth. But it’s a pity that he’s come careering into this and then suddenly realized, oh, everybody’s already in the room. I thought I was here all alone. I don’t know. I’ve got to the point where I’m kind of sick of thinking about it. I’m comfortable with the fact that what he’s trying to do is not really ultimately going to have any impact on the outcome of things, other than maybe adding a few million quid to the coffers of the trustee if he wants to buy the brand and the URL.
Peter McCormack: All right, well, let’s forget Brock for now, but I do think you also probably deserve the chance to respond to some of the Mt. Gox Transparency claims. So there’s a couple of things in there that kind of stood out.
Andy Pag: Can I just say before you start, that I love the name Mt. Gox Transparency, but who is behind it? No idea. Not very transparent, but okay let’s go!
Peter McCormack: I think they did a good job of outlining what Brock’s mission is or was, and debunking it. But they also made some claims about you. It went on Reddit. It got quite fierce claims from people who appear to not have had a Reddit account for that long. But so be it. But there were two or three that really stood out to me, that I think need answering. So firstly that there would be a significant injection of money into Mt. Gox Legal. Then secondly that you suggested that there should be close cooperation with Gox Rising. I think the biggest claim is that without the money, your income would dry up by the end of March and that you wanted to organize a meeting with the lawyer, the trustee and Brock Pierce. So if you take these on face value, they are some quite substantial accusations. So do you want to give your side to this?
Andy Pag: Yeah, do you want to throw them at me one at a time? I’ll go through them.
Peter McCormack: Let’s start with the claim that you suggested that you should go into cooperation with Gox Rising.
Andy Pag: Well after the conversation I had with Brock, like I say, he was telling me everything I want to hear and okay, they seem pretty much aligned with what we want to do. It’s not as frightening as we thought. He’s also saying that he’s going to bring a load of resources to it. We as creditors are stumping up money for this and why not sponsor Mt. Gox Legal or find some way that they can financially support us, to take the burden off creditors.
At the moment we’re doing a fundraising round because we raised enough money to reach the CR deadline, but then the trustee moved the CR deadline two months. So we’re kind of short for two months and at the moment I’m reluctantly having to go back to creditors and say, “you remember how I said last time was the last time I was going to ask you for money? Well, I need some more money”. So here’s maybe potentially a neat solution. Clearly not going to get into anything like that with him without being 100% clear around what the limits are.
Sure enough, within a weekend, that whole idea has fallen apart and it was with hindsight a nonstarter. But I think the suggestion is that I was going to endorse something that was a bad idea for creditors because it personally made sense to me and even if I wanted to, which I absolutely don’t, but even if I wanted to, the forum that we have has enough checks and balances that I wouldn’t be able to.
So when we set up, I established a board of governance. So I asked for volunteers. I think we had five or six volunteers that identified themselves publicly and said this is who I am, which is something at the time and even now, people don’t want to do because they worry about their claims being hijacked. These are my credentials and I volunteer to be a board of governance and then people voted on who those people are. So they’re not people I selected, they’re people that the group selected and every week or every kind of couple of weeks or whenever we need to, I have a phone call with them. I give them an update. I share with them the things that are kind of off the record that I can’t share more publicly with the rest of the group.
They have a very clear idea of what’s going on and if they ever feel that I’m in a position where I’m compromised or, I’m not acting in the group’s interest, they can call to the group and say, “look, we need to replace Andy because this is what’s happening and we need someone else to be our coordinator”. Likewise, if I come to them and say, “oh look, everyone, Brock’s going to give us $50,000 and all we have to do is get behind his plan. I know it doesn’t really work for creditors, but come on, it’s $50,000”. There’s just no way that the people in the group do not have the critical thinking abilities to see through a plan that does not work for creditors. So there is no way that that was a situation that was ever going to happen.
Peter McCormack: Then the second claim is that your income will dry up at the end of March. But I guess that has been a pressure you’ve had all the way through this?
Andy Pag: Yeah, I mean it is. I think there’s the ugly truth is that we’re all essentially waiting for a windfall and we’re all going to hopefully at the end of this be quite well off. There is a sort of sense of injustice about the fact that we’re being deprived from that and that the right thing is that we are entitled to that windfall. With that, I think for some people comes this kind of resentment that there are any financial barriers between where we are now and getting that windfall and that somehow people like lawyers, like me giving up my job to do this full time, they are somehow they are entitled to that service because they’ve been hard done by thanks to this theft.
Ultimately no one is going to help someone in our situation unless we pay them for it really. It may well be that there are volunteers amongst the group who would do what I want to do for free. I’m 100% open to them stepping forward and saying, “look, this is who I am, I think I can do this job for free and I think I can do it just as well”. I’m more than happy to arrange a handover to them. I can go back to my job with the BBC or go back to other journalism work, that’s not a problem. It kind of feels like this idea that I’m somehow holding onto this little fiefdom that I’ve carved out for myself…. But the structures of the group very purposefully, are such that that isn’t the case. We publish our accounts on the forum, they’re there for everyone to see, so they can see exactly how money is being spent.
Peter McCormack: Then the last one that stood out was the claim that you’re trying to organize a meeting with the lawyer, the trustee and Brock.
Andy Pag: So again, when I was talking to one of Brock’s team, this guy called Oliver Wright, who is a lawyer. He, I think is the sort of driving force behind the idea that there are lots of opportunities to recover losses by suing people that were somehow involved in the process and peripheral to Mt. Gox at the time. So Oliver told me that while they were in Japan, they were going to go and try and have a meeting with the trustee. I thought, well it’d be really interesting to know what they’re saying and I suggested to Oliver, who I suspect at the time and still now probably doesn’t have Japanese council.
I said to him, well, would it be all right if our lawyer came as an observer to what you’re doing, to help build trust, so that we can see what you’re doing and build some transparency. To my surprise, I was expecting him to say no, but he said “yeah, yeah, that’d be fine”. Then the meeting never happened. Clearly our lawyer would have been there representing us.
But I think the concern is that the people behind Mt. Gox transparency thinks that somehow our lawyer being there would have given the trustee the impression that Oliver Wright was appearing with our backing. I mean, clearly that’s not the case. Our lawyer is savvy enough to represent our interests and make it clear that they are, and I had this conversation with our lawyer, that we are not endorsing what they’re doing, we’re just interested in what they’re you know. Again, it’s the idea that somehow I’m giving our resources to Brock — that’s absolutely not what was going on.
It was part of the process of getting a clear understanding of what Brock is trying to achieve and unfortunately its been misinterpreted in this way. That somehow, I don’t know what the implication would be really. I don’t know what I could be doing that was malevolent there, somehow lending the weight of the group to Brock’s approach to the trustee, I suppose is the accusation. Clearly that wasn’t my intention. I have emails between me and our lawyer laying out that that’s not why our lawyer would be going if he was. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure the meeting never happened. Certainly if it did happen, our lawyer wasn’t there and wasn’t invited. I don’t think there are any plans in the future, for that to happen. I’d be surprised if Brock Pierce is even aware of this because I don’t think that he and Oliver Wright, were particularly good at communicating. So if the fear is that I’m lending our lawyer to give credence to Brock’s approach to the trustee, then that was 100% not how this was framed.
Peter McCormack: I suspect this isn’t the last time you’ll see something on Reddit accusing you of certain things, but it’s good to hear your response to that.
Andy Pag: Listen, just on this. I was really looking forward to doing this podcast and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to kind of respond to this stuff because it is hanging over there. I mean, if you’re in this small little incestuous world, it’s creating a big thing. But it’s a real pity that our time is kind of tied up discussing this. I think ultimately I think this is the work of one, maybe two very disgruntled people and I don’t understand. I really don’t understand why they’re disgruntled. I think they feel like somehow I’m taking advantage of the situation and their money is being wasted. Whoever it is, I would ask them to reach out to me. My phone number is readily accessible on my website. Give me a call, let’s go through this calmly.
But to set up a website and then to create three accounts on Reddit and do a hatchet job… A — the people that know what’s going on can see straight through it, B — the people that don’t know what’s going on just end up feeling confused. There is only really one creditor group, which is Mt. Gox Legal, that represents a large body of creditors and clearly I’m going to say this, but it’s actually really doing some valuable work for creditor’s interest. It’s a pity to sort of sling mud at that entity. If you’re not happy with the way I’m managing it, that’s fine.
Actually there are a lot of mechanisms within Mt. Gox Legal for you to raise those concerns and for them to be addressed. But to take this kind of outside and set this up and then create this kind of faux controversy on Reddit, I think is really damaging. I mean for me personally it’s hurtful and annoying, so be it, I’ll muddle through. But it’s damaging for the interests and the standing of the other creditors that are behind Mt. Gox Legal.
Peter McCormack: So I do want to do a little bit of a reflection though, as I haven’t managed to get the Peter Vessenes interview, this is the last interview and I want to summarize some of my thoughts and I thought you’d be an interesting person to have on last, to share that with. So let me tell you what I think and I’ve got kind of two sides of the coin here.
Firstly, I’m going to say in Jed’s defence he created I think a bedroom hobby project. Nothing more than that. It was kind of like this exchange idea for Bitcoin when there wasn’t an exchange. There was no other exchange that existed and when he launched it, I think Bitcoin was trading at 6 cents and then within six months he’d got rid of it. I’ve brought this up a few times in most of my interviews. I think a lot of people look back at Jed’s time, but they do it through a lens or having experienced the $20,000 Bitcoin and experienced a market worth hundreds of billions and they forget it was just this very early stage project that he got involved in.
He also at the time had a lot of trouble getting banking. He was banking from his own JP Morgan Chase Account. In his defence maybe he just thought this isn’t worth it and that’s the bit of defence I give him. Then I look the other side and think, well you handed over something that was clearly broken and clearly in a mess. Whether or not it was all innocently done, if you’ve broken a law, you’ve broken a law. If you’re operating insolvent, you’re operating insolvent. So I kind of have split views on Jed there. How do you feel?
Andy Pag: I absolutely get what you’re saying. I thought there were a couple of things that were really telling in the interview you did with him, which again, I thought was excellent. I think, the fact that he kind of describes this start-up… You asked him was it operating at a loss? I can’t remember exactly what the wording was, but he kind of admits, “yes, it was operating at a loss, but it was a start-up. Start-ups are always at a loss”. That was the kind of mind-set that he was getting across in that interview. Like I say, I’m paraphrasing, so forgive me a little bit wide on the wording, but I think that’s really, really telling. I think that’s true if you’re a dotcom start-up who is using investor money and investors have given you that money, knowing there’s a risk that you can fail and that you’re going to be hot-footing it with juggling money left, right and centre.
But I think that’s very different, if you’re taking money as an exchange and you’re saying, “I’m holding onto your money, I’m not investing it, I’m just holding it while you trade it and then I’ll give it back to you”. I think to start fiddling with that kind of investment is a very different thing. But I thought it was really telling that in that interview he didn’t seem to make that distinction. I think that’s just the kind of window into the attitude. At the time it was all small scale stuff. I’m trying to think of a silly analogy, but if I’m driving my car and I make a silly move and there’s just a tiny little wiggle of the steering wheel, then I can send my car veering off and cause a lot of damage and it’s ultimately my fault. So we’re all kind of responsible for the actions that we take, even though sometimes those actions have huge consequences and we didn’t intend them to be huge.
Ultimately, I really do think that there’s a big question over this missing 80,000 Bitcoin. I think there’s definitely a question to answer about Jed’s liability for that at the time. It’s interesting when he spoke to you, you said, “oh, they were only worth about $30,000”. When he spoke to me, I think he came out with a very specific figure of $67,000. I think he’s trying to downplay the value of it. By today’s standards, $67,000, I’m sure if he could make this go away for $67,000, he’d pay that in a minute, I’m guessing. It’s really interesting if you read the contract of sale, which I’ve looked at in great deal of detail, it describes this kind of moment in time where the contract starts. At that point, what the contract says is that you tally up all the assets and all the liabilities, all the accounts that Mt. Gox has. That is the amount that Jed will give to Tibanne, because the contract is between Jed and Tibanne, not Mark, although Mark owns 100% of Tibanne.
Then what happens two days later, this hack appears or this money disappears or the Bitcoins disappear rather. But ultimately the way the contract’s written, the accounting for that is two days earlier when that money is there. So that is all part of the funds in the pool, which Jed owes to Tibanne. Now, he never gave that to Tibanne and Tibanne has always been short. There’s an argument that you could make, which is having set Mark up with an exchange that is short of funds, that meant that the only way he could get through was ducking and diving, not regularly checking the accounts because he didn’t want staff to become aware of the fact that there was a short historical shortfall.
As a result of that, this hacker was able to drain everything out of the exchange. Now, some people would think of that argument and say, well, that’s a step too far to say Jed lost this money at the beginning and somehow it’s Jed’s fault that the scenario, the situation was set up that Mark then lost the rest. If Mark had run the exchange better and he’d been across the security issues then it’s not fair to sort of put 100% of that blame on these missing 80,000 Bitcoins. But I still think there’s a question here over the fact that Jed still owes Tibanne 80,000 Bitcoins. I think what was really interesting about your interview is that there’s nuggets in there in which it almost seems like he’s admitting liability to that.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. The 80,000 is a very strange one because I can’t seem to get an accurate picture of where in the timeline it happened, because there’s kind of this handover period where Jed still has an admin control or controls over certain bits and Mark has controls over certain bits and then the 80,000 goes missing during that time. I’m not going to make any kind of accusation or conjecture.
Andy Pag: I mean I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to build as accurate a timeline as possible based on different bits of information from different places. It looks to me, that they agree the sale actually…. So they have a conversation, there’s a chat conversation when the Bitcoins are missing. In telling again, it’s Jed that informs Mark, it’s not Mark that notices these coins are missing, which again gives you the sense that Jed has custody over these coins, he’s still the custodian and he still has charge over them.
During that conversation they agreed that the start of the contract will be from a few days back. So before these coins went missing and when you read the contract, it says at the start of the contract, you figure out how many Bitcoins, how much cash, how much debt to each of the account holders you have and that is what you’re handing over. So that is what Jed was due to handover to Tibanne. Then it went missing and he never handed it over. There’s a whole load of other mitigating factors as well, which is that there’s a clause in the contract which says, Mark agrees to accept responsibility for ultimately taking the blame for anything that goes wrong, is kind of what it says. There’s the fact that Jed implied to me that they had a conversation about this 80,000 Bitcoin in which Mark agreed to take that debt on. Now if that’s right, if there’s a record that Marks says “okay, 80,000 Bitcoins has gone missing, but here you go Jed, don’t worry about it. I’ll take this on”. Then that does kind of remove potentially some of the liability from Jed about having to pay this 80,000 Bitcoin if there’s a subsequent agreement to the contract in which, Mark takes that liability away from Jed.
There are still 150 ways to cut this. The other thing that I think was quite telling was that Jed told me and this conversation I had with him, it was an interview for the purpose of a newspaper article. I made it clear to Jed that everything he told me was on the record, so I have no problem sharing it. But the other thing he told me was that the hack happened, due to the server being rooted. So the exchange was on a co-located server, which again you think today’s standards, you think, what on earth are you thinking putting a Bitcoin exchange on a co-located server! It’s essentially terrible security! So that machine was rooted and I said, “well whose responsibility was security and whose responsibility was protecting it?” Jed said, “well, maybe I didn’t put the right patches on. Maybe I didn’t keep up with the patches” and that would kind of fit with that attitude that you picked up on that this is a sort of bedroom project, let’s see what happens, let’s give it a try.
I think Jed’s being a little bit disingenuous in the sense that he started this thing up, technically yeah, okay, there is a few hiccups and bumps and throwing this bit of code together. But ultimately Jed’s thinking look I can see that this is going to be a statutory and a licensing and a money transfer nightmare. It may have some money in it, but I’ve done this for three to six months and I’ve already had $50,000 stolen. This is too much of a headache. Let’s get rid of this. I think that 80,000…. my personal view and opinion on it would be that 80,000 that went missing, I think the blame for that going missing lies more in Jed’s court than in Mark’s court.
I think that it’s difficult and then there’s a whole lot of statue of limitation issues about whether the creditors can do anything about it. I know I spent a fair bit of time looking at how creditors might sort of seek some sort of redress through legal action. I know there’s still other people that are looking at that and it may well be something that gets revised. I don’t know. Again, just to reiterate, I think what you got Jed to reveal in that interview, I think is quite telling and quite important for how that story continues.
Peter McCormack: I don’t think any of us know what we would’ve done put in the same situation. You buy an exchange that’s doing a little amount of this new digital currency and then suddenly over the space of a couple of years, it becomes something that’s got half a billion in value. Who can be prepared for that, who knows how to operate that kind of business? I do find that Mark isn’t disingenuous at heart, he just kind of screwed up a few times and there’s a bit of self-preservation there. But he certainly doesn’t feel like the person who had the skills or the ability and should have been the person to take over the exchange. He might have had some of the technical skills, but I don’t think he had probably the necessary business acumen to do it.
Then not only is he taking over an exchange, but he’s taking over a few things. He’s taken over an exchange. He’s taken over a business. He’s taken over a security nightmare and he’s taking over something that’s potentially insolvent and has to find a way to recover at first $50,000 but then very quickly, 80,000 Bitcoin and soon after Bitcoin went on a run, so that 80,000 Bitcoin, say it’s worth $67,000, I’ve not actually looked at the numbers, but say Bitcoin did a 10x, that’s suddenly $670,000.
So he was basically dumped with a massive headache and having met him, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would then just get on the phone and say, “look Jed, you’ve handed me a absolute shit sandwich here. I don’t want this. We’ve got to renegotiate and switch the sight off and say, I’m not having anything to do with this”. It feels like he’s the kind of guy who probably thought, “Oh God, I can probably fix this somehow and try to”, and then just dug himself a bigger hole. How do you feel about that kind of observation?
Andy Pag: I think that was probably pretty close to the mark. But I probably don’t share the same sympathy with that situation. I think if you take some action that that has unexpectedly large consequences, then it’s still on your head just because “I didn’t know that it was going to be this big of a deal”. Well nonetheless, you made a conscious choice at one point, and I think comes down to ethics, you made a conscious choice at one point when this money had gone missing, not to turn around to creditors and say, “oh look, this money’s gone missing”. I think at the time it was a third of all the Bitcoins they had. So it was a pretty significant amount. Even in dollar terms by today’s standards it was small. It was still a big chunk of the value of the exchange of their working.
Another way they could have gone is to turn around and say to everyone, “look, we’ve had this hack, we’re working on getting the money back. But in the meantime, here’s how we’re going to do it with fees and it’s going to take a while and maybe issue a Gox coin” or whatever you’re going to do. But I think the big thing that swings it for me, is from they were just unlucky and that’s the way life goes, to bad actors, is that they chose to keep that quiet from creditors and after that, creditors piled in money, thinking this is a relatively safe bet, like me however many years later thinking, “all right, this is the biggest exchange, this is the one that everybody trusts. This is where I’m going to send my money”. I really think it comes down to that issue that it’s a question of that they weren’t straight with the creditors and it may be that if they’d done that, the exchange would have collapsed and then a load of people, early Bitcoin investors, they would have lost their money then and that would have been sad for them.
Who knows, maybe now it’ll just be a much smaller pool of people in this mess or it may be the creditors would have gone, “well screw it Mark, well done for fessing up and we’ve been with this exchanges, it’s the bastion and we trust you to dig yourself out of this hole”. And he could have approached everything in a far more transparent way. That goes just as equally for Jed, who by the looks of the conversations that had been published online, was just as much, if not the lead architect in, here’s how we cover it up so creditors then find out about it.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I wouldn’t disagree with that point. The fact that they should have been more honest, but I don’t know what it was like at the time. What kind of theory he had. Maybe he was too worried about doing that, thinking about the impact or maybe he thought, “oh maybe I can fix this”.
Andy Pag: I mean of course he was worried by the impact or he was just worried about the fact that he had just bought this business that he’s hoping is going to be a cash cow and all of a sudden it’s on its knees already and how’s he going to dig it out of that? Of course, those are all the sorts of mindsets, but I think it comes down to a question of ethics.
Peter McCormack: No, I agree. But I just think based on my limited history and work, I’ve met many people who have kicked a can down the road and then a business has collapsed at the end. Again, I wasn’t there. I can’t guess what he did, but I just think he thought he could fix the problem.
Andy Pag: I mean we’re going around in circles. I think you’re right. He could fix the problems, but to fix the problems, without the consent of creditors…. Essentially this is when you turn around and say, “look, we’ve been hacked, but ultimately it’s your money that’s gone missing. How do you want me to try and deal with this? Do you want me to just fold up and disappear and crawl back under my rock? Or do you want me to try and put fees to one side to earn this money back and swap this for dollars so we don’t lose too much money as price grows or whatever’s going to happen in the future” because they wouldn’t know it at that stage. There was a way that he could have tried to fix it with the consent of his customers.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, no I don’t disagree. Then I think the other real key point is I think the biggest, the most silly mistake, is never having checked the status of the cold wallet. That was obviously, well we don’t know if he did, but the assumption is that he didn’t.
Andy Pag: No, he’s stated on the record that he didn’t and again the reason he gives is that the way the wallets were structured, it was risky to access it and again, like you say with Mark, he’s very kind of forthcoming and then suddenly stuff just doesn’t quite make sense. Then you wonder, well actually how forthcoming are you being? There is always that kind of confusion around that. In fairness things at the time were very complicated. It’s not as straightforward as it seems, sitting here now. But I struggle to accept that.
I think that he knew that the accounts were in a mess and maybe you get to that point where “fuck, I don’t want to look, I know how ugly it’s going to be”. Or maybe he was worried “look I can’t let the staff look at this because if they do they’re going to leak it and then the exchange is going to come crashing down”. That initial ethical choice not to tell customers at the time. Then you end up very quickly down a rabbit hole where you are forced to then build a lie on top of a lie on top of a lie, in order to keep treading water.
I think the fact that he wasn’t checking accounts, my suspicion, my personal belief is that was more driven by that idea, that I know the accounts from mess, I don’t want to look, I don’t want anyone else to look because I don’t want it to get out. As a result… I mean the hack is amazing. Two and a half years, almost three years, I think it was where someone’s stealing coins hundreds of times a day. It’s just incredible!
Peter McCormack: One of the things I do give a little bit of a defence to Mark was, is that I think one of the things people don’t recognize is that the site was being attempted to hack or people are attacking it on a constant daily basis. He was fighting that and fighting fires and it was still the first exchange. So people look at the hacks that happen and think you’re an idiot, but probably don’t realize the amount that he probably also thwarted.
Essentially, he’s taken on some butchered, problematic codebase and he’s tried to do his best to kind of build it out. If you’re going to launch an exchange today, there’s many case studies of things that have gone wrong that you should do right. It’s still happening today. We’ve had Cryptopia, we’ve had QuadrigaCX. I think some people are expecting to have had the highest standards of security for day one, based on the lens of where we are in the world of Bitcoin or crypto now and I think that’s a little bit unrealistic.
Andy Pag: I think that’s really fair. I think you’re absolutely right. I think exactly as you say, there were probably a bunch of other things that could have gone catastrophically worse that he avoided and I think he was launching into a very unknown world in terms of regulation and licensing in terms of money transferring and AML. There was some things that he was doing, that you learn about now and you think, “oh wow, that was pretty forward thinking”. Maybe as a Chief Technical Officer he might have been quite a good person to run that exchange. As a CEO, with hindsight, I think it was pretty clear he wasn’t and I wonder if he wouldn’t admit to that as well actually at this point.
Peter McCormack: I think almost certainly he’s no CEO, that’s a very, very hard role to do. I would never envy someone having to be the CEO of a major exchange. Who was I speaking to recently, somebody running an exchange and I said, “you must have a constant fear of something going wrong”. They said, “yeah, your main fear is you’ve got this huge honeypot that’s growing all the time, that people are trying to steal from you”.
Andy Pag: I think as a businessman, all the things that we’re facing now as creditors and look at the Coinlab case, there’s one narrative which is…. Poor Mark, he was hard done by and Vessenes is taking advantage of the situation. But there’s another narrative and this other narrative kind of appears in all the stories. It appears in the story about the 80,000 Bitcoin hack, is it Jed’s fault or is it Mark’s fault? Is it someone else’s fault? The other narrative is maybe Mark is just a lousy businessmen. Why didn’t Mark say, “hang on a minute Jed, you’re 80,000 Bitcoins short, I’m not taking this on”, or “we need to address this in a different way” or “you need to stump up the difference”. I think that wouldn’t be an unreasonable business decision. You’re buying something for X and suddenly it’s worth 80,000 Bitcoins less, then you don’t just carry on. I don’t see that that’s particularly complicated, day one business school stuff, isn’t it?
So in all of these stories, likewise with Coinlab, the narrative could be that maybe Mark was just really difficult to work with and maybe he kind of created these problems that weren’t there or whatever reason and actually Coinlab have a valid case. I don’t think that’s right, actually in that case. But, there is always this nagging doubt with all these stories that come up and you think that the common denominator in all of this might just be that Mark was a really, really bad businessman and here’s another way in which he created another big problem. If he’d been selling cookies out of a shop and cookies are still worth $2 now, like they were in 2013, then it really wouldn’t have mattered. The problem is that he’s being judged pretty harshly about his business acumen because it just so happened that the industry has stumbled into, had at its heart an asset, which went from being worth pennies to being worth thousands of dollars. So all of those mistakes and multiplied…..
Peter McCormack: Often you’ll hear people say that the main accusation is that he’s incompetent. I mean you get a lot of different accusations, but the main one is he’s incompetent. I try not to use that. I think the not checking the cold wallet was incompetent, but I say generally and it’s a very similar term, but I think there’s a slightly different connotation. I tend to just think he was just way out of his depth.
Andy Pag: I think in fairness anyone would be. I think is a really difficult industry to be in 2011, 2012, it is real wild west stuff. You think about the exchanges that are still around from that era. It’s not a lot that is still around, what is it, Kraken and Coinbase? I think that’s about it, isn’t it? Everyone else has disappeared on the way. Is that fair?
Peter McCormack: I think pretty accurate. I haven’t found actually that there’s a huge amount of ill will towards Mark. There are a few people, but I think generally most people have got a certain amount of sympathy as well. This is like a balance and I think possibly that’s the whole time is a healer thing.
Andy Pag: I think that’s a sort of fair way to look at him. I think you’re absolutely right. There was a while back where he was vilified and the source of all things bad and I think now people are just bit more resigned to the fact that these situations, actually there’s a lot more nuance and a lot more stuff’s going on. I think it’s a little bit frustrating that he always kind of hints about the fact that, “oh, I can’t talk because my trial is going on, but as soon as it’s over, you’ll get to see the full story” and all the rest of it and we’ll see. His judgment’s coming up in a few weeks now actually. So we’ll see what is revealed, if anything after that. Personally I don’t have any sort of ill will or malice towards Mark. I wouldn’t trust him to run a business for me, but I wouldn’t throw rotten tomatoes at him!
Peter McCormack: That’s the thing, his trial or his hearing is coming up. I don’t want him to go to prison. I think he’s paid a lot over the last few years. He’s had the death threats. He did about 11 months in jail, which is like pre-jail. So he talked about that there was no going outside. He was pretty much in solitary confinement essentially for 11 months, which affected his mental state which he said about. He’s carried a huge weight and I don’t think he should have bared all the responsibility for that. So my personal feelings and I’m not a creditor so I might feel differently, but my personal feeling is that, he’s going to have some kind of charge over him. I hope it’s some kind of suspended sentence and he can really just move on with his life.
Andy Pag: I think you’re right, that he’s probably been through more than a lot of us can imagine. I think one thing that I kind of wrestled with a bit is that sometimes in my conversations with him, I don’t get a sense that he’s learnt anything from that experience. So that there isn’t any kind of, I don’t want to say remorse, but at least kind of looking back and thinking a little bit of humility about the mistakes he’s made. Vocally on one level he very much owns up to his mistakes. But in terms of how to progress things now it feels like there’s still glimpses of this same attitude, if you like that, “that’s okay. I can fix this”.
There was a point a little while back before we moved into civil rehabilitation, that he came up with this plan that was going to cost $250 million or something like that to get Mt. Gox back again so that people could be paid out and it’s almost like Mark, you are not the person to be weighing in with this kind of suggestion, well-intentioned as it is. But the lesson that you should have picked up is that sort of swinging from the [Inaudible] to try and fix stuff is not your role, it’s not your forte. You are absolutely right, I think it was very easy to forget that he has been through more than most of us can imagine.
But I just wonder if that whole experience has taught him the lessons that maybe he should be getting. I don’t know. I’m sure he does wrestle with this stuff. He’s a very deep thinker actually, so I’m sure he does and probably really unfair to have his, his every move and nuance analyzed and discussed in public about like we’re doing now. So Mark, if you’re listening, I apologize for psychoanalyzing you in public. It’s not really fair!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, it’s funny because as you said that in the back of my mind I was thinking “God this really bad taste to be discussing it like this”, but I don’t know.
Andy Pag: Listen, I think he is a public figure, whether he wants to be or not. I think he’s put himself into the public domain enough that this is what comes with it. He is ultimately the figurehead of an organization which lost half a billion dollars and there are a lot of people that want to understand why. His person and character and personality are part of that understanding. So I would say as a journalist that this kind of discussion is fair game.
Peter McCormack: Well listen I’m conscious of time so I’ve got to wrap up and just give you like an overall picture. We’ve discussed Jed, we’ve discussed Mark and I think my overriding feeling is that the most important thing is this now just gets wrapped up as quickly as possible and that the CR plan gets to be executed as the creditors want, which is the Coinlab thing needs to go away as quickly as possible.
I think Brock needs to just step back and step away from the whole thing and silence himself for it. Then the creditors work with the trustee to bring this to a closure as soon as possible and then the whole thing get buried and everyone move on with their life. I can’t really think of anything else. Daniel Kelman did a great job of summing that up and I think he’s a great representation for the creditors as well, but it just feels like this is what needs to happen.
Andy Pag: Ultimately this whole debacle is really fascinating because it’s the first time, I suppose, on this kind of scale, the world of Crypto has come headlong into the world of the statute books and the laws, especially in Japan where things are even more rigorous than they might be in the US state. It’s this collision of these two worlds of a bunch of crypto type people like Brock who’s coming in, “yeah, okay, we’ll just issue a coin, bing, bang and then all be done”. These are very sort of humble, genteel, legal bankruptcy lawyers with 15 years in the firm and just busily looking over their documents and quietly going through their ledgers of paperwork and it’s just this collision of these different sets of rules, the statute books and the rules of the ICO and the venture capitalist and the speed of those two things moves at a completely different pace.
There is this absolute frustration, that why can’t this just be sorted out? The reason for that is there is this legal process, which is plodding along meticulously and diligently going through every step along the way. But yes, terms of the way that will be sorted out ultimately, Coinlab needs to be reconciled and then the trustee…. I have no doubt that the trustee is aware of what creditors want and he wants to be able to deliver that. But he’s also under a bunch of restrictions and rules that are dictated by the statute and by the court and he’s going to have to try and sort of navigate his way between the two.
Peter McCormack: So to close up, we’re five years on, hopefully it won’t be another five years, but if it is, I’m sure we’ll speak! But we’re five years on now, just how do you personally reflect on it all? What do you take from it? Also just finish off by letting people know how they can stay in touch with you and if you want to hear from anyone how they can get in touch.
Andy Pag: Yeah, that’s tricky. I think I’m so in the day to day of it that I don’t really have that sort of big-picture reflection so much anymore. I suppose that the key thing really is how…. It’s all numbers on a spreadsheet on one level. But actually, it’s a lot of money that could have some pretty dramatic effects on a lot of people’s lives and it just be a really lovely story to see that delivered and to see people getting these windfalls that they’ve been waiting a long time for and going on and enjoying the fruits of those windfalls. I think it’d be quite nice to sort of do that together with a bunch of other people that have been part of the journey.
I kind of make the comparison of winning a lottery ticket. You buy a lottery ticket and then you win and you get the money. It’s almost too easy to be enjoyable. Whereas what creditors has been through, they’ve been through this journey and hopefully there’s a winning lottery ticket at the end of it, but we kind of earned it. I just hope that there’s a lot of happy people at the end of it all and hopefully that’s not too far away.
In terms of the plug to join Mt. Gox Legal, it’s an entirely voluntary organization and cooperative of creditors. I’m sorry that it costs money to join. I wish there was a way of doing it without asking people to pay. It’s 100 bucks to join and then after that you can donate as much as you like. I think, pretty much everyone that’s joined it, with maybe exception one person on Reddit, is really happy with the information that they gained from it. We have over a thousand creditors. I feel like we have the ear of the trustee. I think he takes Mt. Gox Legal very seriously and that’s quite a responsibility to carry. It’s open to anyone with a claim in the bankruptcy or in the civil rehabilitation. I think it’s a wise investment.
Peter McCormack: All right man. Well listen, look, thank you for coming on. I really appreciate what you’ve done. I appreciate your openness and I look forward to this one getting out and seeing what the response is.
Andy Pag: Once again, thanks to you for putting the series together. It’s really valuable for creditors.