Gerald Cotten

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Gerald Cotten
Gerald Cotten, and his wife, Jennifer Robertson, in India, shortly before his death.
Gerald Cotten, and his wife, Jennifer Robertson, in India, shortly before his death.
Born Canada
Died India
Nationality Canada
Known for alleged to have wrapped a ponzi scheme around a ponzi scheme

Gerald Cotten was a Canadian financier, whose sudden death, at 30-years-old, stirred controversy.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Investors were distressed when told that encrypted digital assets he controlled, for them, could not be accessed, because only he knew the access codes.[7][8]

Cotten's death, and the loss of his keys, has been offered as a cautionary tale, when other instances of crypto-currency loss have come to light.[9][10]

Cotten was born and grew up in Ontario, where he attended York University's Schulich School of Business.[6]

In 2013, three years after graduation Cotten co-founded QuadrigaCX, a cryptocurrency exchange, with a man known as Mike Patryn.[6][11]

Cotten was left as its CEO and sole director, after other directors resigned, in 2016.

Cryptocurrencies are volatile, and unregulated. Cotten took the cautionary step of storing most of the $250 million cryptocurrency deposits Quadriga managed in so-called "cold wallets". Cold wallets are distinguished from "hot wallets" in that they are stored on computers that are not connected to the internet, and thus are a much harder target for hackers. Commentators praised Cotten for this precautionary step, but criticized him for failing to take steps so others at his company could open up the cold wallets if he should die or become incapacitated.

On November 13, 2019, approximately three weeks before his death, The Globe and Mail quoted Cotten's reaction to a law-suit from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).[12] In January 2019 CIBC had frozen several accounts with $26 million CAD on deposit, claiming it couldn't be sure who the funds actually belonged to. The Globe and Mail reported the accounts belonged to QuadrigaCX's "payment processor", Costodian Inc., and its owner, Jose Reyes.". They reported Quadriga had argued that the majority of the funds were really its property, and that CIBC freezing the funds was improper. CIBC had called for the court to take the frozen funds in trust, and conduct its own determination as to its genuine owners.

Ontario Superior Court judge Glenn Hainey did agree to have the courts take control of the funds, but noted he could not yet determine whether CIBC's initial decision to freeze the funds was appropriate, or whether they faced a liability.[12]

After noting that Cotten was "pleased" that the case was moving forward they quoted him saying[12]:

“More importantly, the court has made no ruling yet on whether CIBC acted appropriately in freezing the funds in the first place. Regarding this point, we are considering our next steps.”[12]

According to the Halifax Chronicle Herald the company released documents in mid-January 2019, that showed he died "suddenly" at a private hospital in Jaipur, India. Cotten had written a new will in late November 2018, approximately two weeks before his death. His wife Jennifer Robertson, accompanied Cotten to the hospital on December 8, 2018, when he experienced a crisis in his ongoing battle with Crohn's disease.[13] In spite of the hospital's efforts, he went through a septic shock and had several cardiac arrests, dying, finally, on December 9, 2018.

According to probate documents filed by Robertson, on December 21, 2018, he left her most of his personal assets of approximately 9.5 million CAD.[14] His will included provision to set aside $100,000 for his in-laws, for the care of the couple's two dogs, if Robertson should die within 30 days of his death.

Vanity Fair magazine wrote an article about Cotten, in its November 2019 issue.[15] In the article they reported that an associate of Cotten's, Michael Patryn, had actually been Quadriga's co-founder. They reported that Quadriga investors claimed Cotten and Patryn had a background in Ponzi schemes:

"They traced the relationship back to 2003, to a dingy warren of a website called TalkGold. It was devoted to high-yield investment programs, or HYIPs, more commonly known as Ponzi schemes."[15]

In 2020 pressure mounted for Cotten's body to be exhumed, to confirm he had not faked is death.[16]

Takara Small, of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast a podcast about Cotten, on May 25, 2021.[17]

In July 2021 Winnipeg documentary filmmaker Sheona McDonald premiered a documentary about Cotten, entitled "Dead Man’s Switch", at the Gimli Film Festival.[18] The Winnipeg Free Press said the film "had the scent of Citizen Kane".

On September 26, 2021, Netflix announced plans to broadcast a documentary series focussed around the investigatory efforts of Quadriga investors who believed Cotton faked his death.[19] The series will be entitled Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King.[20] It is scheduled to premiere in 2022.[21]


See also












  1. "Cryptocurrency exchange Quadriga seeks creditor protection after founder's death". Halifax Chronicle Herald. 2019-02-04. Archived from the original on February 10, 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-10. "'A visionary leader who transformed the lives of those around him, Gerry died due to complications with Crohn's disease on December 9, 2018 while travelling in India, where he was opening an orphanage to provide a home and safe refuge for children in need,' the company said" 
  2. Andrea Gunn (2019-02-05). "Quadriga founder's widow moved 4 Nova Scotia properties further from creditors' reach". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 2019-02-07. Retrieved 2019-02-10. 
  3. "Details emerging about Gerald Cotten, the young founder of QuadrigaCX". Halifax Chronicle Herald. 2019-02-07. Archived from the original on 2019-02-10. Retrieved 2019-02-10. "The circumstances surrounding Cotten's death — and the way he conducted his business from the couple's home in Fall River, N.S. — has led to a flurry of speculation and allegations in internet chat rooms, with some former QuadrigaCX users coming forward to raise questions about the $250 million in cash and cryptocurrency owed to 115,000 of them." 
  4. Nicole Munro (2019-02-07). "Nothing sinister about bitcoin company CEO's sudden death, friend says". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-10. "The 30-year-old Nova Scotia native died 'while undergoing treatment at Fortis hospital in Jaipur,' India, states a Jawahar Circle police document. 'According to the chief medical officer of the hospital, Jayant Sharma, it was a sudden death.'" 
  5. Andrea Gunn (2019-02-09). "QuadrigaCX founder left $9.8m in personal property, over a million in Nova Scotia". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 2019-02-09. Retrieved 2019-02-10. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Yvette Brand (2019-02-07). "Quadriga CEO, whose death ignited a cryptocurrency storm, a kind man with taste for fine things, say friends". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2019-02-09. Retrieved 2019-02-10. "In 2013, Cotten launched Vancouver-registered Quadriga just three years after graduation from York University's Schulich School of Business." 
  7. Lindsay Ann Histrop; Valentina Romano (2020-03-06). "Canada: Dealing With Digital Assets On Death: Who Owns Them? Who Can Access Them? What Can Be Done To Protect Them?". Mondaq. Archived from the original on 2020-03-08. Retrieved 2020-03-07. "In December 2018, Gerald Cotten, CEO of QuadrigaCX, Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange died suddenly at age 30. Mr. Cotten was the only person who had passwords to ~115,000 customers' digital wallets." 
  8. Henry Holloway (2021-07-28). "To The Grave: Mystery of rogue Bitcoin trader who ‘died’ taking with him password to $215m fortune sparking rumours he faked his death". The Sun. Archived from the original on 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-07-29. "He appointed his wife as the executor of his estate, handing over a $9million real estate empire, his yacht and his Cessna plane - and he even left his two dogs an inheritance of $100,000. Robertson has not been accused of any wrongdoing - and has denied any knowledge of her husband's business dealings." 
  9. Daniel Van Boom (2020-02-23). "Drug dealer loses $58M in bitcoin after landlord accidentally throws codes out". CNET. Retrieved 2020-03-07. "The past few years have seen others lose digital fortunes even greater than Collins' $58 million. A man in the UK accidentally threw out a hard drive storing $127 million worth of bitcoin codes. Gerald Cotten, owner of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, died in December 2018, leaving behind $190 million in cryptocurrency for which he had the only password." 
  10. Enza Uda; Joan Webber (2021-05-25). "A death in Cryptoland". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2021-07-27. Retrieved 2021-07-29. "In the weeks following Cotten's trip to India, the company kept the death a secret. It was business as usual, with the exchange continuing to accept customer funds. It took more than a month for QuadrigaCX to publicly announce Cotten's death — and then another two weeks for Jennifer Robertson to admit the customer funds were inaccessible." 
  11. Michael MacDonald (2019-07-16). "Details emerging about Gerald Cotten, the young founder of QuadrigaCX". Canadian Press. Archived from the original on 2021-05-22. Retrieved 2021-07-29. "Robertson said Cotten was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 24, about a year after he co-founded QuadrigaCX with his partner Mike Patryn." 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Alexandra Posadzki (2018-11-13). "Judge rules with CIBC, grants possession of disputed Quadriga funds to Ontario Superior Court". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2019-01-24. "'More importantly, the court has made no ruling yet on whether CIBC acted appropriately in freezing the funds in the first place,' Mr. Cotten said. 'Regarding this point, we are considering our next steps.'" 
  13. Dishank Purohit (2019-02-07). "Crypto firm CEO with $190 million password did die in Jaipur hospital". Times of India. Archived from the original on 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-08. 
  14. Michael MacDonald (2019-02-07). "Details emerging about Gerald Cotten, the young founder of QuadrigaCX". CTV News (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Archived from the original on 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-10. "In an application to probate the will, filed on Dec. 21, 2018, Robertson confirmed that the gross value of Cotten's personal property -- all of which was left to her -- was $9.6 million. She was granted the right to administer his estate as executor on Jan. 2." 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Nathaniel Rich (2019-11-22). "Ponzi schemes, private yachts, and a missing $250 million in Crypto: The strange tale of Quadriga". Vanity Fair magazine. Retrieved 2019-05-22. "When Canadian blockchain whiz Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly last year, hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds vanished into the crypto ether. But when the banks, the law, and the forces of Reddit tried to track down the cash, it turned out the young mogul may not have been who he purported to be." 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Margi Murphy; Hasan Chowdhury; Harry de Quetteville; Saurabh Yadav (2020-03-15). "Revealed: London bank accounts that could hold key to dead crypto tycoon's lost millions". The Telegraph (UK). Archived from the original on 2020-03-17. Retrieved 2020-03-16. "As Fowler stood in court in New York, separate legal proceedings were under way 500 miles further north to allow Quadriga’s 115,000 creditors finally to get their hands on Cotten. There was just one problem: he is officially dead and buried, following a closed-casket funeral service in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Dec 14 2018." 
  17. Takara Small (2021-05-25). "Host Takara Small brings fresh perspective to the tech world in new CBC podcast: A Death in Cryptoland unravels the mysterious life & death of crypto-tycoon Gerald Cotten". CBC Podcasts. Archived from the original on 2021-07-28. Retrieved 2021-07-29. "After his death, it was discovered that Cotten had signed a will shortly before his fateful trip, leaving everything to his wife." 
  18. Randall King (2021-07-14). "Tales from the crypto: Documentary explores life and death of Canadian CEO -- and the disappearance of $215 million of cryptocurrency". Winnipeg Free Press. Archived from the original on 2021-07-14. Retrieved 2021-07-29. "But this story is all too real. The film by Vancouver-based documentarian Sheona McDonald examines the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Canadian CEO Gerald Cotten, who died at the age of 30 in India, apparently as a result of Crohn’s disease." 
  19. Francis Agustin (2021-09-26). "Netflix true-crime documentary dives into cryptic death of crypto millionaire Gerald Cotten". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 2021-09-28. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "The Netflix documentary will follow investors-turned-investigators looking into theories on the founder's sudden death." 
  20. Lavender Baj (2021-09-27). "A New Netflix Doco Will Deep Dive Into One Of Crypto’s Biggest Scandals". Gizmodo. Archived from the original on 2021-09-27. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "The film — entitled Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King — centres around a group of cryptocurrency investors who turn into amateur detectives to investigate the suspicious death of Gerald Cotten. Why, you ask? Well, because they believe he took off with over $200 million worth of investors’ money." 
  21. K. Holt (2021-09-24). "Netflix is making a documentary about the QuadrigaCX Bitcoin saga: When founder Gerald Cotten died in 2018, hundreds of millions in crypto assets allegedly became inaccessible". Engadget. Archived from the original on 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "Trust No One: The Hunt For The Crypto King will debut in 2022." 
  22. Brett Bundale; Michael MacDonald (2019-03-01). "Quadriga's mystery 'cold wallets' were emptied months before Gerald Cotten's death". Financial Post (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Archived from the original on 2019-09-24. Retrieved 2019-05-22. "The monitor’s third report indicated six so-called cold wallets used to store digital assets offline have been found, but all of them are empty." 
  23. Michael MacDonald (2019-02-19). "An insider’s view of the Quadriga meltdown: 'It’s all kind of really suspicious’". Financial Post (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Archived from the original on 2019-04-18. Retrieved 2019-05-22. "By cryptocurrency standards, QuadrigaCX was a relatively well-known exchange, mainly because it was one of the first in Canada. Co-founded by Canadian Gerald Cotten in 2013, the exchange appeared to be a safe bet." 
  24. Geoff Zochodne (2019-02-08). "How Gerald Cotten built Quadriga — and created the ensuing crypto storm". Financial Post (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Archived from the original on 2020-03-08. Retrieved 2019-05-22. "Four months of work later, Quadriga launched on Boxing Day 2013. Users began to flock to the site. According to a November 2015 financial filing, Quadriga estimated at that point it was processing between 60 to 90 per cent of the volume of digital currency exchange transactions in Canada." 
  25. Anthony Cuthbertson (2019-02-05). "Bitcoin: Millions of dollars of cryptocurrency 'lost' after man dies with only password: Conspiracy theories have been raised about the whereabouts of the QuadrigaCX exchange's funds". The Independent. Retrieved 2020-03-07. "Some customers have even questioned the death of Mr Cotten, taking to social media platforms to demand proof in the form of an obituary or death certificate. According to Coindesk, a death certificate was included in the list of court documents." 
  26. Henry Holloway (2021-07-29). "Bitcoin boss Gerald Cotten may have faked death and escaped with $234m fortune: Many believe Gerald Cotten is alive and escaped with a $234 million fortune, with investigators calling to dig up his body.". The News (Australia). Retrieved 2021-07-29. "The 30-year-old’s sudden death from complications of Crohn’s disease shocked the crypto world – but many believe he may have faked his demise in an elaborate 'exit scam'." 
  27. Charles Mandel (2021-09-24). "Regulators caution crypto trading platforms, issue guidance over misleading language in advertising". Betakit. Archived from the original on 2021-09-24. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "The OSC classified Cotten’s actions as a Ponzi scheme, which is typically a form of fraud that lures investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from the more recent investors." 
  28. Tim Hanlon (2021-07-29). "Bitcoin goldmine for hackers trying to steal £100bn of lost and forgotten crypto dosh". Daily Star. Archived from the original on 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "Examples of previous lost funds include £180million that was lost when Gerald Cotten died and took with him the password for his investors’ money." 
  29. "Patch me if you can: Password taken to the grave. Gone stupid.". Archived from the original on 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "In addition to the personal tragedy for Cotten’s family and friends, there was another problem – for Cotten’s customers: As CEO of the largest Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX, apparently only he had access to the private keys of the so-called “cold wallets”, i.e. the secure storage locations of the Reserves of over 100,000 people." 
  30. Jackson Wingate (2021-07-28). "What are the best true crime podcasts covering a single case?". Film Daily. Archived from the original on 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "Exit Scam interviews those who knew Cotten & had their lives turned upside down by his sudden death. Listeners can come up with their own theories as to what happened in this perplexing case. Did Cotten fake his own death? Was he running a Ponzi scheme? You be the judge." 
  31. Kim Lee (2021-08-13). "Maxi theft of cryptocurrencies: are bitcoins safe?". Softball News. Archived from the original on 2021-10-01. Retrieved 2021-09-29. "There is an emblematic story to sum up this aspect: that of Gerald Cotten, founder of the Canadian Bitcoin Exchange QuadrigaCx, who allegedly died taking the encrypted password to access the portal to his grave along with the approximately 123 million euros in cryptocurrencies of the customers (still running rumors that Cotten gave himself up for dead to escape with the chest)."