Merry Xmas !
I am coming back to you with a follow up post, as I have helped many people cash out this year and I have streamlined the process. After my original post
, I received many requests to be more specific and provide more details. I thought that after the amazing rally we have been attending over the last few months, and the volatility of the last few days, it would be interesting to revisit more extensively.
The attitude of banks around crypto is changing slowly, but it is still a tough stance. For the first partial cash out I operated around a year ago for a client, it took me months to find a bank. They wouldn’t want to even consider the case and we had to knock at each and every door. Despite all my contacts it was very difficult back in the days. This has changed now, and banks have started to open their doors, but there is a process, a set of best practices and codes one has to follow.
I often get requests from crypto guys who are very privacy-oriented, and it takes me months to have them understand that I am bound by Swiss law on banking secrecy, and I am their ally in this onboarding process. It’s funny how I have to convince people that banks are legit, while on the other side, banks ask me to show that crypto millionaires are legit. I have a solid background in both banking and in crypto so I manage to make the bridge, but yeah sometimes it is tough to reconcile the two worlds. I am a crypto enthusiast myself and I can say that after years of work in the banking industry I have grown disillusioned towards banks as well, like many of you. Still an account in a Private bank is convenient and powerful. So let’s get started.
- A. What is required to open an account in a Private bank when you made your fortune through crypto.
There are two different aspects to your onboarding in a Swiss Private bank, compliance-wise.
*The origin of your crypto wealth
*Your background (residence, citizenship and probity)
These two aspects must be documented in-depth. How to document your crypto wealth.
Each new crypto millionaire has a different story. I may detail a few fun stories later in this post, but at the end of the day, most of crypto rich I have met can be categorized within the following profiles: the miner, the early adopter, the trader, the corporate entity, the black market, the libertarian/OTC buyer. The real question is how you prove your wealth is legit. 1. Context around the original amount/investment
Generally speaking, your first crypto purchase may not be documented. But the context around this acquisition can be. I have had many cases where the original amount was bought through Mtgox, and no proof of purchase could be provided, nor could be documented any Mtgox claim. That’s perfectly fine. At some point Mtgox amounted 70% of the bitcoin transactions globally, and people who bought there and managed to withdraw and keep hold of their bitcoins do not have any Mtgox claim. This is absolutely fine. However, if you can show me the record of a wire from your bank to Tisbane (Mtgox's parent company) it's a great way to start.
Otherwise, what I am trying to document here is the following: I need context. If you made your first purchase by saving from summer jobs, show me a payroll. Even if it was USD 2k. If you acquired your first bitcoins from mining, show me the bills of your mining equipment from 2012 or if it was through a pool mine, give me your slushpool account ref for instance. If you were given bitcoin against a service you charged, show me an invoice. 2. Tracking your wealth until today and making sense of it.
What I have been doing over the last few months was basically educating compliance officers. Thanks God, the blockchain is a global digital ledger! I have been telling my auditors and compliance officers they have the best tool at their disposal to lead a proper investigation. Whether you like it or not, your wealth can be tracked, from address to address. You may have thought all along this was a bad feature, but I am telling you, if you want to cash out, in the context of Private Banking onboarding, tracking your wealth through the block explorer is a boon. We can see the inflows, outflows. We can see the age behind an address. An early adopter who bought 1000 BTC in 2010, and let his bitcoin behind one address and held thus far is legit, whether or not he has a proof of purchase to show. That’s just common sense. My job is to explain that to the banks in a language they understand.
Let’s have a look at a few examples and how to document the few profiles I mentioned earlier. The trader.
I love traders. These are easy cases. I have a ton of respect for them. Being a trader myself in investment banks for a decade earlier in my career has taught me that controlling one’s emotions and having the discipline to impose oneself some proper risk management system is really really hard. Further, being able to avoid the exchange bankruptcy and hacks throughout crypto history is outstanding. It shows real survival instinct, or just plain blissed ignorance. In any cases traders at exchange are easy cases to corroborate since their whole track record is potentially available. Some traders I have met have automated their trading and have shown me more than 500k trades done over the span of 4 years. Obviously in this kind of scenario I don’t show everything to the bank to avoid information overload, and prefer to do some snacking here and there. My strategy is to show the early trades, the most profitable ones, explain the trading strategy and (partially expose) the situation as of now with id pages of the exchanges and current balance. Many traders have become insensitive to the risk of parking their crypto at exchange as they want to be able to trade or to grasp an occasion any minute, so they generally do not secure a substantial portion on the blockchain which tends to make me very nervous. The early adopter.
Provided that he has not mixed his coin, the early adopter or “hodler” is not a difficult case either. Who cares how you bought your first 10k btc if you bought them below 3$ ? Even if you do not have a purchase proof, I would generally manage to find ways. We just have to corroborate the original 30’000 USD investment in this case. I mainly focus on three things here:
*proof of early adoption I have managed to educate some banks on a few evidences specifically related to crypto markets. For instance with me, an old bitcointalk account can serve as a proof of early adoption. Even an old reddit post from a few years ago where you say how much you despise this Ripple premined scam can prove to be a treasure readily available to show you were early.
*story telling Compliance officers like to know when, why and how. They are human being looking for simple answers to simple questions and they don’t want like to be played fool. Telling the truth, even without a proof can do wonders, and even though bluffing might still work because banks don’t fully understand bitcoin yet, it is a risky strategy that is less and less likely to pay off as they are getting more sophisticated by the day.
*micro transaction from an old address you control This is the killer feature. Send a $20 worth transaction from an old address to my company wallet and to one of my partner bank’s wallet and you are all set ! This is gold and considered a very solid piece of evidence. You can also do a microtransaction to your own wallet, but banks generally prefer transfer to their own wallet. Patience with them please. they are still learning.
*signature message Why do a micro transaction when you can sign a message and avoid potentially tainting your coins ?
*ICO millionaire Some clients made their wealth participating in ETH crowdsale or IOTA ICO. They were very easy to deal with obviously and the account opening was very smooth since we could evidence the GENESIS TxHash flow. The miner
Not so easy to proof the wealth is legit in that case. Most early miners never took screenshot of the blocks on bitcoin core, nor did they note down the block number of each block they mined. Until the the Slashdot article from August 2010 anyone could mine on his laptop, let his computer run overnight and wake up to a freshly minted block containing 50 bitcoins back in the days. Not many people were structured enough to store and secure these coins, avoid malwares while syncing the blockchain continuously, let alone document the mined blocks in the process. What was 50 BTC worth really for the early miners ? dust of dollars, games and magic cards… Even miners post 2010 are generally difficult to deal with in terms of compliance onboarding. Many pool mining are long dead. Deepbit is down for instance and the founders are MIA. So my strategy to proof mining activity is as follow:
*Focusing on IT background whenever possible. An IT background does help a lot to bring some substance to the fact you had the technical ability to operate a mining rig.
*Showing mining equipment receipts. If you mined on your own you must have bought the hardware to do so. For instance mining equipment receipts from butterfly lab from 2012-2013 could help document your case. Similarly, high electricity bill from your household on a consistent basis back in the day could help. I have already unlocked a tricky case in the past with such documents when the bank was doubtful.
*Wallet.dat files with block mining transactions from 2011 thereafter This obviously is a fantastic piece of evidence for both you and me if you have an old wallet and if you control an address that received original mined blocks, (even if the wallet is now empty). I will make sure compliance officers understand what it means, and as for the early adopter, you can prove your control over these wallet through a microtransaction. With these kind of addresses, I can show on the block explorer the mined block rewards hitting at regular time interval, and I can even spot when difficulty level increased or when halvening process happened.
*Poolmining account. Here again I have educated my partner bank to understand that a slush account opened in 2013 or an OnionTip presence was enough to corroborate mining activity. The block explorer then helps me to do the bridge with your current wallet.
*Describing your set up and putting it in context In the history of mining we had CPU, GPU, FPG and ASICs mining. I will describe your technical set up and explain why and how your set up was competitive at that time. The corporate entity
Remember 2012 when we were all convinced bitcoin would take over the world, and soon everyone would pay his coffee in bitcoin? How naïve we were to think transaction fees would remain low forever. I don’t blame bitcoin cash supporters; I once shared this dream as well. Remember when we thought global adoption was right around the corner and some brick and mortar would soon accept bitcoin transaction as a common mean of payment? Well, some shop actually did accept payment and held. I had a few cases as such of shops holders, who made it to the multi million mark holding and had invoices or receipts to proof the transactions. If you are organized enough to keep a record for these trades and are willing to cooperate for the documentation, you are making your life easy. The digital advertising business is also a big market for the bitcoin industry, and affiliates partner compensated in btc are common. It is good to show an invoice, it is better to show a contract. If you do not have a contract (which is common since all advertising deals are about ticking a check box on the website to accept terms and conditions), there are ways around that. If you are in that case, pm me. The black market
Sorry guys, I can’t do much for you officially. Not that I am judging you. I am a libertarian myself. It’s just already very difficult to onboard legit btc adopters, so the black market is a market I cannot afford to consider. My company is regulated so KYC and compliance are key for me if I want to stay in business. Behind each case I push forward I am risking the credibility and reputation I have built over the years. So I am sorry guys I am not risking it to make an extra buck. Your best hope is that crypto will eventually take over the world and you won’t need to cash out anyway. Or go find a Lithuanian bank that is light on compliance and cooperative. The OTC buyer and the libertarian.
Generally a very difficult case. If you bought your stack during your journey in Japan 5 years ago to a guy you never met again; or if you accumulated on https://localbitcoins.com/
and kept no record or lost your account, it is going to be difficult. Not impossible but difficult. We will try to build a case with everything else we have, and I may be able to onboard you. However I am risking a lot here so I need to be 100% confident you are legit, before I defend you. Come & see me in Geneva, and we will talk. I will run forensic services like elliptic
, or scorechain
on an extract of your wallet. If this scan does not raise too many red flags, then maybe we can work together ! If you mixed your coins all along your crypto history, and shredded your seeds because you were paranoid, or if you made your wealth mining professionally monero over the last 3 years but never opened an account at an exchange. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ I am not a magician and don’t get me wrong, I love monero, it’s not the point. Cashing out ICOs
Private companies or foundations who have ran an ICO generally have a very hard time opening a bank account. The few banks that accept such projects would generally look at 4 criteria:
*Seriousness of the project Extensive study of the whitepaper to limit the reputation risk
*AML of the onboarding process ICOs 1.0 have no chance basically if a background check of the investors has not been conducted
*Structure of the moral entity List of signatories, certificate of incumbency, work contract, premises...
*Fiscal conformity Did the company informed the authorities and seek a fiscal ruling.
- B. The tax issue I am not a tax specialist, but I can say that this year I have seen it all. Again I am not judging. You made $100m hodling, and still wouldn’t pay your taxes ? Your decision.I personally advise everyone to pay their taxes, but also to be generous, to give to charities. I mean you eventually made it. Good for you. What about you contribute to make the world a better place now? I will stop patronizing you. It’s just my 2cts, and it’s your money.
For the record, I am not into the tax avoidance business, so people come to me with a set up and I see if I can make it work within the legal framework imposed to me.
First, stop thinking Switzerland is a “offshore heaven” Swiss banks have made deals with many governments for the exchange of fiscal information. If you are a French citizen, resident in France and want to open an account in a Private Bank in Switzerland to cash out your bitcoins, you will get slaughtered (>60%). There are ways around that, and I could refer you to good tax specialists for fiscal optimization, but I cannot organize it myself. It would be illegal for me. Swiss private banks makes it easy for you to keep a good your relation with your retail bank and continue paying your bills without headaches. They are integrated to SEPA, provide ebanking and credit cards.
For information, these are the kind of set up some of my clients came up with. It’s all legal; obviously I do not onboard clients that are not tax compliant. Further disclaimer: I did not contribute myself to these set up. Do not ask me to organize it for you. I won’t. EU tricks Swiss lump sum taxation
Foreign nationals resident in Switzerland can be taxed on a lump-sum basis if they are not gainfully employed in our country. Under the lump-sum tax regime, foreign nationals taking residence in Switzerland may choose to pay an expense-based tax instead of ordinary income and wealth tax. Attractive cantons for the lump sum taxation are Zug, Vaud, Valais, Grisons, Lucerne and Berne. To make it short, you will be paying somewhere between 200 and 400k a year and all expenses will be deductible.
Switzerland has adopted a very friendly attitude towards crypto currency in general. There is a whole crypto valley in Zug now. 30% of ICOs are operated in Switzerland. The reason is that Switzerland has thrived for centuries on banking secrecy, and today with FATCA and exchange of fiscal info with EU, banking secrecy is dead. Regulators in Switzerland have understood that digital ledger technologies were a way to roll over this competitive advantage for the generations to come. Switzerland does not tax capital gains on crypto profits. The Finma has a very pragmatic approach. They have issued guidance
- updated guidelines here
. They let the business get organized and operate their analysis on a case per case basis. Only after getting a deep understanding of the market will they issue a global fintech license in 2019. This approach is much more realistic than legislations which try to regulate everything beforehand. Italy new tax exemption.
It’s a brand new fiscal exemption. Go to Aoste, get residency and you could be taxed a 100k/year for 10years. Yes, really
What’s crazy in Europe is the lack of fiscal harmonization. Even if no one in Brussels dares admit it, every other country is doing fiscal dumping. Portugal is such a country and has proved very friendly fiscally speaking. I personally have a hard time trusting Europe. I have witnessed what happened in Greece over the last few years. Some of our ultra high net worth clients got stuck with capital controls. I mean no way you got out of crypto to have your funds confiscated at the next financial crisis! Anyway. FYI Malta
Generally speaking, if you get a residence somewhere you have to live there for a certain period of time. Being stuck in Italy is no big deal with Schengen Agreement, but in Malta it is a different story. In Malta, the ordinary residence scheme is more attractive than the HNWI residence scheme. Being an individual, you can hold a residence permit under this scheme and pay zero income tax in Malta in a completely legal way. Monaco
Not suitable for French citizens, but for other Ultra High Net worth individual, Monaco is worth considering. You need an account at a local bank as a proof of fortune, and this account generally has to be seeded with at least EUR500k. You also need a proof of residence. I do mean UHNI because if you don’t cash out minimum 30m it’s not interesting. Everything is expensive in Monaco. Real Estate is EUR 50k per square meter. A breakfast at Monte Carlo Bay hotel is 70 EUR. Monaco is sunny but sometimes it feels like a golden jail. Do you really want that for your kids? Dubaï
- Set up a company in Dubaï, get your resident card.
- Spend one day every 6 month there
- Be tax free
Some Private banks in Geneva do have the license to manage the assets of US persons and U.S citizens. However, do not think it is a way to avoid paying taxes in the US. Opening an account at an authorized Swiss Private banks is literally the same tax-wise as opening an account at Fidelity or at Bank of America in the US. The only difference is that you will avoid all the horror stories. Horror stories are all real by the way. In Switzerland, if you build a decent case and answer all the questions and corroborate your case in depth, you will manage to convince compliance officers beforehand. When the money eventually hits your account, it is actually available and not frozen.
The IRS and FATCA require to file FBAR if an offshore account is open. However FBAR is a reporting requirement and does not have taxes related to holding an account outside the US. The taxes would be the same if the account was in the US. However penalties for non compliance with FBAR are very large. The tax liability management is actually performed through the management of the assets ( for exemple by maximizing long term capital gains and minimizing short term gains).
The case for Porto Rico
. Full disclaimer here. I am not encouraging this. Have not collaborated on such tax avoidance schemes. if you are interested I strongly encourage you to seek a tax advisor and get a legal opinion. I am not responsible for anything written below. I am not going to say much because I am so afraid of uncle Sam that I prefer to humbly pass the hot potato to pwc
From here all it takes is a good advisor and some creativity to be tax free on your crypto wealth if you are a US person apparently. Please, please please don’t ask me more. And read the disclaimer again. Trust tricks
Generally speaking I do not accept fringe fiscal situation because it puts me in a difficult situation to the banks I work with, and it is already difficult enough to defend a legit crypto case. Trust might be a way to optimize your fiscal situation. Belize. Bahamas. Seychelles. Panama, You name it. At the end of the day, what matters for Swiss Banks are the beneficial owner and the settlor. Get a legal opinion, get it done, and when you eventually knock at a private bank’s door, don’t say it was for fiscal avoidance you stupid ! You will get the door smashed upon you. Be smarter. It will work. My advice is just to have it done by a great tax specialist lawyer, even if it costs you some money, as the entity itself needs to be structured in a professional way. Remember that with trust you are dispossessing yourself off your wealth. Not something to be taken lightly. “Anonymous” cash out.
Right. I think I am not going into this topic, neither expose the ways to get it done. Pm me for details. I already feel a bit uncomfortable with all the info I have provided. I am just going to mention many people fear that crypto exchange might become reporting entities soon, and rightly so. This might happen anyday. You have been warned. FYI, this only works for non-US and large cash out. The difference between traders an investors.
Danmark, Holland and Germany all make a huge difference if you are a passive investor or if you are a trader. ICO is considered investing for instance and is not taxed, while trading might be considered as income and charged aggressively. I would try my best to protect you and put a focus on your investor profile whenever possible, so you don't have to pay 52% tax if you do not have to :D
Full cash out or partial cash out?
- C. The cash out itself So you have accumulated patiently a good amount of wealth. For some of us who have been involved in crypto since 2010, it took years. Remember when BTC was stuck at 200$ for months? I personally feel like it was yesterday. There is no way you screw up your wealth by cashing out in a hurry or with low security standards. Here is how the cash out takes should place.
People who have been sitting on crypto for long have grown an emotional and irrational link with their coins. They come to me and say, look, I have 50m in crypto but I would like to cash out 500k only. So first let me tell you that as a wealth manager my advice to you is to take some off the table. Doing a partial cash out is absolutely fine. The market is bullish. We are witnessing a redistribution of wealth at a global scale. Bitcoin is the real #occupywallstreet, and every one will discuss crypto at Xmas eve which will make the market even more supportive beginning 2018, especially with all hedge funds entering the scene. If you want to stay exposed to bitcoin and altcoins, and believe these techs will change the world, it’s just natural you want to keep some coins. In the meantime, if you have lived off pizzas over the last years, and have the means to now buy yourself an nice house and have an account at a private bank, then f***ing do it mate ! Buy physical gold with this account, buy real estate, have some cash at hands. Even though US dollar is worthless to your eyes, it’s good and convenient to have some. Also remember your wife deserves it ! And if you have no wife yet and you are socially awkward like the rest of us, then maybe cashing out partially will help your situation ;) What the Private Banks expect.
Joke aside, it is important you understand something. If you come around in Zurich to open a bank account and partially cash out, just don’t expect Private Banks will make an exception for you if you are small. You can’t ask them to facilitate your cash out, buy a 1m apartment with the proceeds of the sale, and not leave anything on your current account. It won’t work. Sadly, under 5m you are considered small in private banking. The bank is ok to let you open an account, provided that your kyc and compliance file are validated, but they will also want you to become a client and leave some money there to invest. This might me despicable, but I am just explaining you their rules. If you want to cash out, you should sell enough to be comfortable and have some left. Also expect the account opening to last at least 3-4 week if everything goes well. You can't just open an account overnight. The cash out logistics.
Cashing out 1m USD a day in bitcoin or more is not so hard.
Let me just tell you this: Even if you get a Tier 4 account with Kraken and ask Alejandro there to raise your limit over $100k per day, Even if you have a bitfinex account and you are willing to expose your wealth there, Even if you have managed to pass all the crazy due diligence at Bitstamp,
The amount should be fractioned to avoid risking your full wealth on exchange and getting slaughtered on the price by trading big quantities. Cashing out involves significant risks at all time. There is a security risk of compromising your keys, a counterparty risk, a fat finger risk. Let it be done by professionals. It is worth every single penny.
Most importantly, there is a major difference between trading on an exchange and trading OTC. Even though it’s not publicly disclosed some exchange like Kraken do have OTC desks. Trading on an exchange for a large amount will weight on the prices. Bitcoin is a thin market. In my opinion over 30% of the coins are lost in translation forever. Selling $10m on an exchange in a day can weight on the prices more than you’d think. And if you trade on a exchange, everything is shown on record, and you might wipe out the prices because on exchanges like bitstamp or kraken ultimately your counterparties are retail investors and the market depth is not huge. It is a bit better on Bitfinex. It is way better to trade OTC. Accessing the institutional OTC market is not easy, and that is also the reason why you should ask a regulated financial intermediary if we are talking about huge amounts.
Last point, always chose EUR as opposed to USD. EU correspondent banks won’t generally block institutional amounts. However we had the cases of USD funds frozen or delayed by weeks.
Most well-known OTC desks are Cumberlandmining
(ask for Lucas), Genesis
(ask for Martin), Bitcoin Suisse AG
(ask for Niklas), circletrade
, or Altcoinomy
(ask for Olivier)
Very very large whales can also set up escrow accounts for massive block trades. This world, where blocks over 30k BTC are exchanged between 2 parties would deserve a reddit thread of its own. Crazyness all around. Your options: DIY or going through a regulated financial intermediary.
Execution trading is a job in itself. You have to be patient, be careful not to wipe out the order book and place limit orders, monitor the market intraday for spikes or opportunities. At big levels, for a large cash out that may take weeks, these kind of details will save you hundred thousands of dollars. I understand crypto holders are suspicious and may prefer to do it by themselves, but there are regulated entities who now offer the services. Besides, being a crypto millionaire is not a guarantee you will get institutional daily withdrawal limits at exchange. You might, but it will take you another round of KYC with them, and surprisingly this round might be even more aggressive that the ones at Private banks since exchange have gone under intense scrutiny by regulators lately.
The fees for cashing out through a regulated financial intermediary to help you with your cash out should be around 1-2% flat on the nominal, not more. And for this price you should get the full package: execution/monitoring of the trades AND onboarding in a private bank. If you are asked more, you are being abused.
Of course, you also have the option to do it yourself. It is a way more tedious and risky process. Compliance with the exchange, compliance with the private bank, trading BTC/fiat, monitoring the transfers…You will save some money but it will take you some time and stress. Further, if you approach a private bank directly, it will trigger a series of red flag to the banks. As I said in my previous post, they call a direct approach a “walk-in”. They will be more suspicious than if you were introduced by someone and won’t hesitate to show you high fees and load your portfolio with in-house products that earn more money to the banks than to you. Remember also most banks still do not understand crypto so you will have a lot of explanations to provide and you will have to start form scratch with them! The paradox of crypto millionaires
Most of my clients who made their wealth through crypto all took massive amount of risks to end up where they are. However, most of them want their bank account to be managed with a low volatility fixed income capital preservation risk profile. This is a paradox I have a hard time to explain and I think it is mainly due to the fact that most are distrustful towards banks and financial markets in general. Many clients who have sold their crypto also have a cash-out blues in the first few months. This is a classic situation. The emotions involved in hodling for so long, the relief that everything has eventually gone well, the life-changing dynamics, the difficulties to find a new motivation in life…All these elements may trigger a post cash-out depression. It is another paradox of the crypto rich who has every card in his hand to be happy, but often feel a bit sad and lonely. Sometimes, even though it’s not my job, I had to do some psychological support. A lot of clients have also become my friends, because we have the same age and went through the same “ordeal”. First world problem I know… Remember, cashing out is not the end. It’s actually the beginning. Don’t look back, don’t regret. Cash out partially, because it does not make sense to cash out in full, regret it and want back in. relax. The race to cash out crypto billionaire and the concept of late exiter.
The Winklevoss brothers are obviously the first of a series. There will be crypto billionaires. Many of them. At a certain level you can have a whole family office working for you to manage your assets and take care of your needs . However, let me tell you it’s is not because you made it so big that you should think you are a genius and know everything better than anyone. You should hire professionals to help you. Managing assets require some education around the investment vehicles and risk management strategies. Sorry guys but with all the respect I have for wallstreebet
, AMD and YOLO stock picking, some discipline is necessary. The investors who have made money through crypto are generally early adopters. However I have started to see another profile popping up. They are not early adopters. They are late exiters. It is another way but just as efficient. Last week I met the first crypto millionaire I know who first bough bitcoin over 1000$. 55k invested at the beginning of this year. Late adopter & late exiter is a route that can lead to the million. Last remarks.
I know banks, bankers, and FIAT currencies are so last century. I know some of you despise them and would like to have them burn to the ground. With compliance officers taking over the business, I would like to start the fire myself sometimes. I hope this extensive guide has helped some of you. I am around if you need more details. I love my job despite all my frustration towards the banking industry because it makes me meet interesting people on a daily basis. I am a crypto enthusiast myself, and I do think this tech is here to stay and will change the world. Banks will have to adapt big time. Things have started to change already; they understand the threat is real. I can feel the generational gap in Geneva, with all these old bankers who don’t get what’s going on. They glaze at the bitcoin chart on CNBC in disbelief and they start to get it. This bitcoin thing is not a joke. Deep inside, as an early adopter who also intends to be a late exiter, as a libertarian myself, it makes me smile with satisfaction.
Cheers. @swisspb on telegram
The FBI indictment
states that SDPR earned ฿614,305 in commissions. It's been suggested
that the expense of running SR, and the large changes in the exchange rate, may substantially reduce how many bitcoins DPR actually
could have saved up, possibly to as low as ฿"150-200k". (The logic here is that if SR earns commissions of ฿100 in 2011 but needs to pay $100 of hosting bills, it needs to sell all ฿100 but in 2013, it would need to sell only ฿1.)
DPR surely spent some of the commissions on running SR & himself, but running a website isn't that expensive, and how badly the exchange rate bites will depend on details like how it fluctuated over time, how sales grew over time, and how big the expenses really are. The reduction could be tiny, or it could be huge. It's hard to tell based just on a gut estimate.
So: below, I take estimates of SR growth from Christin 2013's crawl
and the FBI indictment, infer linear growth of SR sales, estimate daily expenses, and combine it with historical Bitcoin exchange rates to show that DPR probably has most of his bitcoins and 200k or lower is right out.
My strategy is to model Silk Road's growth as linear in dollar amounts, but with different amounts of bitcoins each day depending on the exchange rate, subtract a daily operating cost, and then sum the commissions.
So say that on 1 January 2012, SR did $10k of business, and the exchange rate was 1:100, so ฿100 in turnover, and SR gets an average commission of 7.4%, so it would get ฿7.4.
To do this, I need to estimate the revenue each day, the expenses each day, the commission each day, and the exchange rate each day. Then I can multiply revenue by commission, subtract the expense, and sum the left overs to get an estimate of the total bitcoins available to DPR which he could (or could not) have spent.
- Employees: we know that Libertas and one or two others were employed at salaries of $1-2k per week. I'll assume there were 2 others, and each was paid the max of $2k per week, which means total daily employee expenses is (2 * 2000) / 7 = $571 per day. (Unfortunately, the indictment doesn't give any clear indication of their numbers, just referring to them as 'they'.)
This is a conservative estimate since I'm pretty sure that SR was a one-man operation until probably in 2012.
- The servers: we know there were at least 2 servers (the main site, and the forums). The task of hosting the sites does not seem to be too bandwidth or disk-space intensive, and servers are extremely cheap these days. The use of DataClub.biz and GigaTux suggest DPR was using cheap VPSes. I'll estimate a monthly expense of $500 ($250 a piece) which per day is $16.
This is also very conservative.
- DPR: his rent of $1000/month has been widely bruited about, and in general he reportedly spent little. Makes sense to me, I've met and seen the rooms of a few well-paid geeks in SF like DPR, and I would believe them if they said they didn't spend much money on anything but rent & food. I'll bump this up by $1000 for food and all expenses, since he apparently didn't even eat out very much. So $2000/31=$65.
Doubling his rent for total expenses is probably also conservative; for most people, rent is not >50% of income, but SF is incredibly expensive to live in.
This gives a daily expense of $652 (or a monthly total of $19.1k in expenses). As you can see, the employees are by far the most expensive part of running SR in my estimate, which makes me wonder if maybe Libertas was the only employee.
Assuming the details about DPR hiring hitmen in the indictments are reasonably accurate, we can throw in two large expenses:
- an $80k expenditure for killing his Maryland employee. The first payment of $40k was made on 4 February 2013 and the second/final payment of $40k was made on 1 March 2013 (pg9). If we use the exchange rate of those two days, then the hit cost DPR (40000 / 20.42) + (40000 / 34.24) = ฿3127
- the second hit was priced in bitcoins (pg23):
Through further messages exchanged on March 31, 2013, DPR and redandwhite agreed upon a price of 1,670 Bitcoins
So the hits cost DPR somewhere around ฿4797. An extremely large and painful amount, by most standards, but still nowhere near ฿10k - much less higher.
Revenue over time: first and last days
Table 3 provides a breakdown of the feedback ratings from 184,804 feedback instances we collected...In Figure 12, we plot an estimate of the daily commissions collected by Silk Road operators as a function of time. We simply reuse the previous estimates, and apply both the fixed 6.23% rate, and the schedule of Table 4 to each item. We find that the new schedule turns out to yield on average a commission corresponding to approximately 7.4% of the item price.
From February 6, 2011 to July 23, 2013 there were approximately 1,229,465 transactions completed on the site...$79.8 million (USD) in commissions.
According to Bitcoin Charts, on 23 July 2013, the MtGox price was $91
. (As the most famous exchange, any FBI estimate almost certainly used it.) So that implies $79,800,000/91=฿876,923. Or to put it the other way, at $79.8m in transactions, then using Christin's 7.4% estimate, total sales were $1,078,000,000 or ฿10,780,000.
Wikipedia says "These transactions involved 146,946 unique buyer accounts, and 3,877 unique vendor accounts.", and "The total revenue generated from transactions was 9,519,664 bitcoins. Commissions collected from the sales by Silk Road amounted to 614,305 bitcoins."
(So the numbers aren't too different: 614k vs 876k and 10.8m vs 9.5m.)
We'll set 6 February 2011 to $10 in sales (probably not too far from the truth). But what about 23 July 2013? pg20 of the indictment says:
For example, on July 21, 2013 alone, DPR received approximately 3,237 separate transfers of Bitcoins into his account, totaling approximately $19,459. Virtually all of these transactions are labeled "commission".
19459 / 0.074 = $262,959 that day. $20k in commissions is extremely impressive, since Christin estimates only $4k/day commissions as late as the end of July 2012 - so SR must have grown by 500% from 2012 to 2013. We use this revenue estimate as our endpoint and interpolate from $10 to $262,959 over the ~900 days SR existed. This is a conservative way of modeling SR, since the graphs in Christin indicate that SR saw sigmoid growth in 2012, and 2013 would've seen even more growth (to be consistent with the 2013 July commission datapoint being 5x the 2012 July commission datapoint).
I grab weighted price for each day between 6 February 2011 & 23 July 2013
, and stuff it in a CSV
R> sr <- read.csv("http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com182368464/dpr-exchangerate.csv") R> sr$Sales <- c(10, rep(NA, 890), 262959, NA, NA) R> # revenue increased by $300 a day: R> l <- lm(Sales ~ as.numeric(Date), data=sr); l Coefficients: (Intercept) as.numeric(Date) -285 295 R> sr$Sales <- predict(l, newdata=sr) R> sum(with(sr, (Sales * 0.074 - 652) / ExchangeRate))  803397
Or we can run the estimate the other way: if DPR had to spend $652 a day and converted at that day's exchange rate, and we took into account the hitmen, how many bitcoins would he have spent in total?
R> sum(with(sr, 652 / ExchangeRate))  127154 R> (614305 - 127154) - 4797  482354
Obviously ฿803k > ฿614k, which implies that the linear model overestimates sales in the early life of SR; but going the other direction and estimating just from costs & hitmen & total commission, we still wind up with nearly ฿500k (and that was after making a bunch of highly conservative assumptions). The fewer sales (and commissions) early on, the less of a fixed number of bitcoins will be sold. So, while it may initially sound plausible that DPR could have been forced to part with say ฿400k to pay for SR and sundry expenses, the distribution of sales and fluctuations of Bitcoin value mean that this simply does not seem to be the case.
Unless there are some abandoned yachts floating around the SF Bay Area, DPRoss Ulbricht probably has ฿500k-614k.
Someone had asked why I circlejerk bc here.
First off, I do appreciate the technology behind buttcoin. It's pretty amazing that in essence some crazy savant created a system where people are putting faith into a sequence of numbers that were solved by a shit load of computing power (faith as in billions now). In this case the primary motivator is libertarian ideals. Free flow of capital, lack of state interference, lack of inflation, and the "freedom" to do what you want with your loot.
I can also see a whole host of applications for cryptocurrincies in the future, especially in despotic countries, or for organizations like wikileaks. Currency is a form of expression and in our world the rich and powerful can cut off that expression all to easily. Shitty PP's like paypal are robber barron's of the internet, ripping people off and giving them nothing. Credit Cards are horrific oligopolys with literally no feasible way of beating them. Oiligopolies act as monopolists if you go back to econ 101. Fuck those fuckers. All of them. They take a disproportionate amount of the common man's flesh. When I first started looking at BTC, I thought that it could solve a lot of these problems, scare the shit out of these assholes and keep groups like wikileaks or people like snowden from going tits up.
Great. I was intrigued and got on board pretty early - years ago.
However, once you go down the rabbit hole, or get a finance degree, you start to see some chinks in the armour. Things that are totally derrived from libertarian ideals eventually lead to movies like "Black Hawk Down" or "Wall Street". There's a reason God invented regulations and laws.
a) A finite number of bitcoins were a clever solution to bootstrap the currency. Satoshi was fucking smart to do this, since everyone knew that the supply would dry up. At the beginning it wasn't a huge deal since you're looking at 10's of millions of digits that were worth exactly shit. However, in the off chance the primordial soup started to form some amino acids, that finite number would would prove to be the single most important aspect of why we're seeing what we see.
While no doubt there were plenty of people who tossed away, diced, bought pizza and so forth, when the prices started to surge things changed. People were scooping up 7950's not to meet market demand, but to speculate about future increases in value
. Mining became so ridiculous that PC's were useless and ASIC miners were the only feasible platform. You had BFL, which was so lulzy that they took BTC for their bullshit boards, waited a year in some cases while their BTC appreciated and in essence made people pay multiples more for their bullshit product because they took BTC, never delivered and the customers couldn't mine.
This brings me to my point (a). Why the fuck would you sell your BTC at time (x), if you know that at time (Y) its going to be worth more? there will be less BTC injected into the market at time Y
, so your BTC should be worth more down the road. Solution? Hoard your BTC
. Eventually, for all practical purposes, the spigot will be as good as zero. No more buttcoins will be coming out. Now I know the literal zero date is 2100 or some bullshit, but that's semantics and marginal returns have waaaay kicked in. And I don't deny that there are useful applications for cryptocurrencies, any spike in demand we see results in increased pressure.
b) On the flip side of the bitcoin though, is that everyone who holds BTC is playing musical chairs. It's no different than any market, anywhere else on the face of the planet. You're waiting to be the last fool off the ship. The ridiculous rise that we just saw was bound to pop. There are so few instances in life that can justify what we saw in the past few weeks. So few applications, markets, business, commodities that can justify that kind of growth. Yes, even BTC can't justify that kind of growth. It was inevitable that you'd see that 40-50 percent pop. But wait a minute, bitcoin
will still say "I'm up 1 million fucking percent since 2009" or some shit. Maybe so and good for you, but what this volatility proves is my next point: BTC is the worst fucking currency ever conceived of
c) a currency must be a stable medium
of exchange, that is to say a common ether so that we don't have to barter with each other : http://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mediumofexchange.asp
OH WAIT, except that BTC is so fucking volatile, you might as well fucking use cows or chickens, as they would probably have a more stable, measurable value than BTC. Hmm, actually pork looks far less variable and a better medium http://futures.tradingcharts.com/chart/PB/
d) As a currency you need to have a unit of account http://www.thefreedictionary.com/unit+of+account
Picture this: you're running the Bitcoin cafe, since NeckBeard McFedora just told you it's a great payment system. You just accepted 100,000K in bitcoin last month for your coffee sales. Your accountant assumes that these great 100K bitcoins will be worth 100K by next week when he uses the reliable MtGox website to cash his loot out to USD. But wait! BTC loses 50 percent of value, and your coffee bean supplier happens to work for Tony Soprano - he's not taking your -50 percent BTC. Meanwhile, the guy down the street accepted USD one month ago and guess what? His 100K in coffee sales are worth about 100K bitcoin
has told me many times quote : oh but we'll use intermediates who will hedge (use derivatives) to reduce volatility so that people can safely buy and sell at stable prices. So, you'll need another paypal or intermediate for this "free currency"? and you think people will take your risk on for free? risk != free. Remember why this whole fucking thing was started? As a business owner I would stuff your BTC up your asshole if I lost 50 percent in a few days, or if I had to get insurance on a fucking currency. I'd sooner take Mastercard's 4 points than go through that bullshit.
As a business owner I'm not in the business of speculating on currency. Not my fucking job. I build widgets or bikes of pimp hoes. Not currency. http://www.amosweb.com/cgi-bin/awb_nav.pl?s=wpd&c=dsp&k=unit+of+account
"Using money as the unit of account for prices also provides a measure of value--how much value buyers and sellers place on a good. If a Deluxe Club Sandwich carries a $5 price, while a Live Headless Squirrels music CD sells for $10 each, then a relative a measure of each commodity can be had. Buyers place twice the value on the Live Headless Squirrels music CD than on the Deluxe Club Sandwich. Buyers are willing to give up twice as much money to buy a Live Headless Squirrels music CD as to acquire a Deluxe Club Sandwich. Sellers incur twice the opportunity cost of producing a Live Headless Squirrels music CD as the cost of producing a Deluxe Club Sandwich.
This is the reason that money functions as a measure of value. Because money is commonly accepted in payment for all goods and services, because money is the universal medium of exchange, prices provide a relative comparison of value."
You cannot judge OPCOST if the fucking currency yoyo's like Pam Anderson's tits on a roller-coaster.
Anyway, longpost is long. And I have no doubt this is all very debatable, like all my ex-wives. A few last things: http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/
In the last ten years you would have lost 26ish percent had you put your cash in your floorboards. Fucking communists! But wait! You're not supposed to use currency as a long term investment. Not a good fucking idea. I've dealt with wealthy people my entire life. And they NEVER have gobs of real cash sitting in BOA banking account for this very reason.
Contrary to Ron Paul, the fucking Mises Institute (?), and other nut jobs, REASONABLE
inflation is actually a good thing
Why, Augustus you fucking pinko communist nazi mothefucker?
- Fiat currencies (which bitcoin isn't I concede, but obviously was the partial impetus behind btc) are literally worthless if you put it under your pillow. They are literally useless unless they have motion behind them. Having a stack of 100's in your pillow doesn't build bridges, invest in new porno websites, cancer hospitals or buy weed from British Columbia. All of which help sustain the economy. People react to stimuli. In this case, the stimuli happens to be inflation. Keep your wealth in dollars and you'll have less of them, invest them and you'll have more of them, hopefully. Libertarians fucking hate this, they reject it, they reject that it works, they reject the lot of it. And so bitcoin was born. Fuck the fed, fuck the man. Fuck the evil Rothschilds and evil rich cocksuckers who manipulate our money supply so that we have less and less each year. But really, http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ 26 percent over ten years is pretty modest. Most conservative investments would have kept your bucks at par or better.
- Bitcoin on the other hand, is encouraging people NOT to invest in the economy. That finite number of BTC is again stimuli. It's signalling users that hey there's a scarce amount in the world and hey there's been these huge jumps in prices. Next time it goes down, IM ALL IN. So we'll see this ridiculous volatility, while merchants will slowly catch on that it's probably a bad fucking idea to accept these things when there's clearly a big fucking BTC bubble (see above as to why it's a bad idea). And so we'll see this cyclical up and down. This deflationary spiral of people keeping BTC in their pants so that they can make money off the next guy will not be conducive to it being a futuristic currency. The silk road was never BTC's Achilles heal, it was built into the system.
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