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Op-Ed

Unblocked chain

June 13, 2022

The new form of currency doesn't seem to be much safer than the old form of currency. Consider the security of your mattress.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Do you remember why we were supposed to buy cryptocurrency? Wasn’t it supposed to be an impenetrably secure way of holding on to assets that only you could access without pesky intermediaries like banks?

It’s pretty obvious it’s not. Latest case (i.e. lawsuit) in point: a $37 million complaint in federal court in New York filed by a company called IRA Financial Trust against Gemini Trust Company, a crypto-asset exchange that, according to the suit, got hacked.

Let me first note the weirdness of the arrangement described in the lawsuit. IRA is “a leading provider of self-directed retirement accounts” that “never takes custody of the assets.” So instead it uses companies like Gemini to hold on to crypto assets.

In other words, in order to avoid banks and brokerages, you have to hire a firm to manage your crypto that then hires another firm to hold onto it — and that firm got hacked.

I have no idea why anyone would want to do this, but there was an incentive: “Customers even received a video welcome from the Winklevoss brothers upon signing up.”

You may remember those guys from “The Social Network” and their fight over Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg. That class at Harvard has a lot to answer for.

The problem, according to the lawsuit, was that Gemini gave IRA a “master key” for all its accounts and someone managed to find it and withdraw all the assets.

So much for the block chain.

My favorite line from the suit: “Despite the large number of IRA customers who were trading crypto assets through Gemini, Gemini refused to provide IRA with a phone number to use in case of emergency.”

There’s no room for old technology in the crypto world.

In other tech news, the State of Texas Attorney General’s office last week issued an “investigative demand” to Twitter Inc. that just happens to ask for the same inside information that Elon Musk, the guy who’s headquartered in Texas and wants to buy Twitter, has been asking for.

Coincidence?

Expect litigation (if it hasn’t been filed by the time you read this).

Insane asylum. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit last week reaffirmed the concept that you don’t get help from America just because you need it.

The court OK’d denial of asylum to a woman who was threatened by a gang in Guatemala.

Why?

Because she wasn’t special.

You get asylum if you have a well-founded fear of persecution, the court said, but only if you’re part of a group that gets persecuted. The applicant in this case “readily admits that gang extortion ‘is a common problem in Guatemala’ for everyone.”

Equal opportunity danger doesn’t qualify for help.

If everyone’s in danger, no one gets helped. You may only escape countries that aren’t a total mess.

More drama. Those of you suffering from withdrawal now that the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial is over may want to check out another ongoing epic — the split of Julia Haart, subject of the Netflix series “My Unorthodox Life,” and her ex, Silvio Scaglio, an owner of fashion companies.

Do the research — I won’t spoil it for you. But you should know there’s been a new development since Haart lost her court bid for half the fashion companies. The companies (owned by the ex-husband who is not a plaintiff) last week sued Haart in Delaware for allegedly stealing millions from the company to spend on, among other things, clothing, vacations and plastic surgery.

You do need to be fashionable to run a fashion company

Here’s the kicker from the lawsuit: “She also spent $50,000 to pay a retainer for her divorce attorney.”

Spouses — and their companies — hate when you do that.

Season two on Netflix should be lots of fun.

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