January 26, 2006

G&SR / e-gold case in Washington DC court

The case against G&SR, operators of the e-gold payment system, has been filed in Washington DC courts. Here are some of the filings, apparently from the PACER system, which is a US Government site for court documents.

I've only briefly read parts, so far. The USG's case is based on the Money Transmitter Licensing requirement.

16. Title 18, United States Code, Section 1960 provides that: (a) Whoever knowingly conducts, controls, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an unlicensed money transmitting business, shall be fined in accordance with this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both. (b) As used in this section (1) the term “unlicensed money transmitting business” means a money transmitting business which affects interstate or foreign commerce in any manner or degree and (A) is operated without an appropriate money transmitting license in a State where such operation is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony under State law, whether or not the defendant knew that the operation was required to be licensed or that the operation was so punishable; (B) fails to comply with the money transmitting business registration requirements under section 5330 of title 31, United States Code, or regulations prescribed under such section; or (C) otherwise involves the transportation or transmission of funds that are known to the defendant to have been derived from a criminal offense or are intended to be used to promote or support unlawful activity; (c) the term “money transmitting” includes transferring funds on behalf of the public by any and all means including but not limited to transfers within this country or to locations abroad by wire, check, draft, facsimile, or courier.

Pretty broad writings! Apparently in response, G&SR published two letters, the second of which announces:

In an emergency hearing in US District Court January 13, 2006, the freeze order on G&SR's bank accounts was lifted. Though numerous criminal claims had been made in obtaining the search and seizure warrants, the Government has not sustained these allegations and the only remaining claim is a contention that G&SR has operated as a currency exchange without the proper license. G&SR had previously proposed to the Government that e-gold be classified for regulatory purposes as a currency, enabling G&SR to register as a currency exchange. In a Treasury report released January 11, 2006, however, the Department of Treasury reaffirmed their interpretation of the USC and CFR definitions of currency as excluding e-gold.

So G&SR would then agree that the case turns on whether they are a money transmitter or not, and they make this case more forcefully in Document 4 before the judge. However it is becoming clear that G&SR have been less than forthcoming, and have not advised their customers of the true position. Document 4 in the above list says:


As agreed by the parties in open court on January 13, 2006, it is hereby ORDERED that Suntrust Account Number 1000..... and Regions Bank Account Number 6709.... shall be unfrozen; however, the United States shall retain control of the funds previously seized from those accounts pursuant to the warrant issued by Magistrate Judge Facciola in Case No. 05-664 M-01 (JMF) on December 14, 2005.


Date: January 13, 2006

United States District Judge

(Sidenote of FC interest - I've created a good facsimile of Judge Collyer's signature. It is literally typed in as /s/ in the PDF. Whether it is a digital signature or not turns then on whether they still use mechanical typewriters in the District courts!)

No mention of the third bank account by the judge. And no mention by G&SR that their (accounts oops) funds remain under USG control and have been so since 14th December! (Which effectively means that G&SR is under control of the government. Oops, I grant this is no longer sustainable.)

In the earlier 6th Jan letter from Dr Jackson, he wrote:

There were other direct interventions as well that I am not yet at liberty to discuss that nearly crippled OmniPay's ability to honor its obligations to and on behalf of users.

So we now have pretty clear indications that a lot is going on. Whether G&SR have been advised or instructed to keep mum is unclear (and I'm skeptical, especially given the content and tones of the letters). But at the least it makes it rather difficult to carry on business, a point G&SR makes in Document 3. Is G&SR able to deliver on its business undertaking? If it is unable to control its funds under seizure or make any statements adverse or otherwise as to its credit position, then what form of exchange can they reliably do?

And what about e-gold in all this?

For those wondering what the fuss is all about, a few brief remarks of explanation. e-gold, the payment system, is one of the more successful ventrures in the field. It independently re-developed and championed the centuries old approach of escrow of value as epitomised by the gold bars held in vaults. This tool makes a pretty fair stab at establishing a base of governance for issuance of digital currency.

In the late 90s, e-gold made several moves designed to improve the standard of governance - moves that I had a lot to do with through my involvement approximately mid 1998 - mid 2000. Firstly, a co-signatory to the metal was created. Secondly, all physical assets were progressively migrated out of the filing cabinet and into secure vaults at repositories. Until this was done, the substantial part of the value was in "Macotta Delivery Orders" which were directly signable by Dr Jackson. These changes gave a separation of roles aspect that formed two of the parties in my five parties model, the independent vault and the co-signatory. To be fair, Dr Jackson had already understood the importance of the fifth party - the public - in governance by inventing his Examiner page to show his claims of the bars and metal under management.

In addition to protection of the gold, I also considered it essential to protect the digital issuance in a like 5PM system. e-gold only started on this process, before getting sidetracked on what could be stated loosely as "offshore strategies". Although the digital systems should have been placed under independent control, they remained in-house. Although an independent Mint role for creation of new digital float should have been done, I have never heard of it being so.

And the entire payment system should have separated from the risky business of exchange operations. Instead, e-gold Ltd was formed in Nevis, and gold was transferred under dubious legal circumstances to Trusts in Bermuda - completely at odds with the user agreement at the time. Notwithstanding all this legal manouvering, the substance of e-gold remained firmly in-house, in Florida, and firmly under control of Dr Jackson.

If e-gold had solidly and strongly separated itself from the highly lucrative exchange business - deliberately left where the market was in the USA - then G&SR could have disappeared and e-gold would have carried on. Now however, wherefor goes G&SR, there too follows e-gold. To all intents and purposes, they are both likely locked in a deadly embrace with the USG.

Posted by iang at January 26, 2006 12:20 PM | TrackBack

Nondenominated multiparty barter might allow people to regain a measure of sovereignty over our economic activities.

Multiparty collaborations can be written on the backs of napkins over lunch, if we live nearby. People who are widely separated can always list the obligations of each party in a text file and each party digitally sign the contract.

It's awful hard for third parties to control or block or surveil or suck fees out of an economy that deals at the most concrete and granular level, of simple mutual contracts.

If the internet had existed would money have ever been necessary? Why are we sticking with money? It is so illiquid. It is less liquid already than many of the commodities in daily use by the average person. The economic losses to the individual in using money are a substantial fraction of the individuals' economic output. I don't see any law of physics that money systems must always be captured and exploited by banks and governments. But I don't see any exceptions, either, including gold.

Posted by: Todd at January 26, 2006 02:57 PM

Gordon picked me up on a statement on a maillist, essentially mirroring what I said above above: "And no mention by G&SR that their accounts remain under USG control and have been so since 14th December! Which effectively means that G&SR is under control of the government." So here goes .. a correction!

> please go reread that document pertaining to the above statement. I
> believe you will find that your words are describing something not
> ever stated by the document itself. Its one of those A to C things.

"As agreed by the parties in open court on January 13, 2006, it is hereby ORDERED that Suntrust Account Number 1000..... and Regions Bank Account Number 6709.... shall be unfrozen; however, the United States shall retain control of the funds previously seized from those accounts pursuant to the warrant issued by Magistrate Judge Facciola in Case No. 05-664 M-01 (JMF) on December 14, 2005."

OK, reading carefully - you are right! I see that the feds retain control of THE FUNDS PREVIOUSLY SEIZED...

Hmm, ok. That's different. Well spotted, thanks!

So they have their accounts, but they are short the working funds and any outstanding customer funds.

Which means what?

A completely different picture: it means that the Feds have the dosh, and ONLY THAT DOSH. So it means either the feds decide to take each payment and hold it for ML or somesuch, or they decide to work it through and send the funds on to OutEx customers. Before a tsunami of civil complaints adds to their miseries.

Curious. This puts the feds in the brown smelly stuff. For the customer orders ... they have to process them out quickly. They can hold onto anything else, but ... knowing the people we know, most of the working capital would be in e-gold.

Is this going to backfire on the Feds? Well, for that we'd need to know the rest of the story.

Posted by: Iang at January 26, 2006 05:25 PM

E-gold doesn't like to do their paperwork, do they? Failed to renew their corporate charter in Nevis and didn't file for a license in the U.S.?

It's rather odd that in the complaint, the feds include so much detail about the D.C. and Florida state definitions of "money transmitter" when they are alleging a federal crime and the term "money transmitter" is defined right there in the federal statute! Sounds like they expect a big dispute over whether the term "money transmitter" applies to G&SR.

Perhaps they are worried that G&SR can argue that that when they or their "Contractor" are trasmitting e-gold, they are not transmitting "money" or "funds". After all, the UCC definition of "money," for example, requires that it be a currency authorized by a government, which e-gold is not. Some parts of G&SR or e-gold or OmniPay or their affiliates, I can't really keep it straight, probably are "transmitting" actual government "money" in the course of currency exchange, though. G&SR might then have to argue that they aren't transmitting the money, they are merely using money transmitting services such as Swift and Fedwire to transmit the money which they have used to buy or sell e-gold. This arguably makes them no more of a "money transmitter" than any other company that pays for goods or obtains money in exchange for goods by Swift or Fedwire.

This is not legal advice, of course. For that you'll have to wait until this fall and then pay me. :-)

Posted by: nick at January 26, 2006 09:16 PM

OK, now I am reading their answer to the complaint (Doc3) and they are making an argument of the kind I have described. For example in paragraph 9 "'Many businesses receive and transmit funds as payment as a part of their business'" but just this does not make them "money transmitters." They don't expressly claim that e-gold is not a currency or not money, but it seems to be implied. I do notice the Department of Treasury earlier refused to recognize e-gold as a "currency" even though G&SR asked them too!

It's astounding that G&SR has had to respond to "approximately 300 summonses, subpoenas, and other requests for information." Unless they are counting routine stuff, that sounds quite like harassment to me.

Given the behavior of the U.S. federal government in these and other cases, other providers of similar services would be well advised to avoid such serious entanglements of such fundamental portions of their service within the jurisdiction of the U.S., if their service is of an innovative or controversial nature and thus likely to be misunderstood. Today the peasants with pitchforks are the bureaucrat-cops and attorneys who live in this echo chamber of paranoia called Washington D.C.

Again, not legal advice. (If it was legal advice I would do serious research first instead of just reading the complaint and kibbitzing!)

Posted by: nick at January 26, 2006 10:03 PM

Fascinating. I didn't realize that OmniPay had been using domestic banks. I did an InExchange through them for the first time this week, but it was through a bank in Estonia, and I assumed that was normal.

Posted by: Captain Arbyte at January 27, 2006 03:19 AM

Re @Todd:

Money is a special relationship more than anything else. Basically, when A does some work for B, then B owes the same value to A. So far, it is barter, just deferred by credit.
However, when A needs some service from C, she can pay by saying "C, if you do this and this to me, then B will owe you instead of me". So, B's debt is used for payment; it becomes money.
This is the kind of relationship that is embodied in money; it gives far more opportunities for cooperation than simple barter. This is why money exists and the internet only ameliorates such relationships (at least potentially). We definitely need money on the 'net. But it can -- and many, including myself, think it should -- take the form of private contracts.

Posted by: Daniel A. Nagy at January 30, 2006 01:08 PM

Todd, your micro-credit proposal, if I understand it correctly, brings with it all the problems of credit (need for collateral, lack of funds to pay back when promised, opportunism, lawsuits, loss of privacy, etc.) multiplied many times by the increase in scope of credit (i.e. making it ubiquitous). Since at least 75,000 B.P. mankind has used instantly-clearing (proto-)money, ideally of unforgeable costliness but if not at least based on a reliable third party instead of whoever happens to be the counterparty, to solve many of the credit problems that would otherwise be caused by non-coincidence of wants.

Posted by: nick at January 30, 2006 06:43 PM

Good afternoon gentlemen.
I necessary exchange e-gold on e-bullion. As I can do this?
Respectfully yours Viktor

Posted by: Zablovski Victor at April 4, 2006 04:55 AM

I've been reading this and wonder if anyone can give a suggestion as to how I can set up a plan per the information site shown at the URL.


Or I might say is, our intent is to accept e-gold as a means of accepting "gifts" from the members on behalf of others so we can keep track of who to REWARD for their gift.

We have a trust set up and due to the stipulations of the trust, we are NOT a charity and MUST give as a REWARD to the giver for having a specific spirit of giving and intent in order to release the fund to that person.

We decided to use e-gold as the means of keeping track of the "giver" and forwarding the funds to the "giftee" (needy person that can be verified by any and all). We then utilize the trust funds to send to the giver his 100% gift PLUS 20% reward for giving.

The trust MUST give away the proceeds or they sit dormant. It's small in dollar amount, yet does exist. We will use e-gold as a means of keeping track with how made a gift and who receive it. E-gold history would verify and be a 3rd party record to "keep us honest" with the benefactor of the trust.


By using and e-currency such as e-gold to keep track of who the "givers" are to be REWARDED by the trust funds, will there be any problems that any of you can see that would arise? If there are, then we need to find another way to surface the "type" person we are looking for to unlock the trust funds earmarked for disbursement.

This case against e-gold and G&SR has me concerned as it relates to our administering the trust funds that have to be given to a specific person/group with a specific spirit and intent. This suit against e-gold and G&SR has me concerned.

Do any of you see a problem with our plan as described?

P.S. If this is off topic, it can be deleted, we will seek advise and suggestions some other way.
Please let me know.


Posted by: Clayton at July 28, 2006 08:18 PM

Bad news for the fellows at GoldAge, a leading e-gold exchanger: http://www.manhattanda.org/whatsnew/press/2006-07-27.html

Clearly e-gold is not such an easy target as the exchanger businesses. A real shame. GoldAge have been a reliable business in my experience. Of course this is politically motivated. The USG has decided it doesn't like e-gold.

That one of the leaders of the Shadow Crew offered person to person e-gold exchange services clearly gave the excuse that the Feds needed to make their move against the world's favourite digital gold currency.

Sensing the timing was right they then asked BusinessWeek to dust off that hatchet job of an article against e-gold they must have had waiting in the wings for the last year or so at least, and update it to include the Shadow Crew bust.

May I suggest that someone from the exchanger community contact Igor Niman about putting together a defense fund for the GoldAge guys. They deserve better than this.

Posted by: Robert at August 1, 2006 11:27 PM

Yes e-gold are thieves we are a good known hosting company we have been working for years in this business an worked hard to reach where we are now in this though competition regarding hosting business, we have integrated e-gold in our payment systems due a demand of some of our customers and they used to pay for hosting services and domain registration and renewals all of sudden e-gold asked for documents to prove identity and address the owner of TrustyWebHosting, Inc. is a Lebanese man so he scanned his ID front and back which is issued by Lebanese Government and scanned the last cellular bill which proves his address and all of sudden e-gold rejected the documents so he had to upload the documents again and they were rejected for the 2d time without any reason and he had to re-upload for the 3d time and then e-gold blocked his account and won't allow him to uplaod again and they stated that they were unable to authenticate those documents what an excuse they eat the people's money for not being able to authenticate documents if they can't authenticate documents why they ask fr them? when they do not fax those document to any Lebanese Embassy or consulate and ask for investigation? All this a scam they pretend to ask for documents to eat your money at the end... they can at least investigate the e-gold transaction to see that all transaction are legal or not, they can do anything to make sure if the account is involved in any illegal act or not if it is not fine they can at least ask him to stop dealing with e-gold for not being able to verify him and asks him to withdraw all his money and close his account after making sure all transactions involved are legible and legal and it is easy to know that but blocking the account and eating the outstanding balance is a criminal act and they deserve to get sued we will honor any advise on how to sue e-gold for stealing people's money without any reason... please email trustywebhosting@gmail.com if you can assist to get back the stolen money by the thieves of e-gold... Thank you

Posted by: TrustyWebHosting, Inc. at June 7, 2009 06:18 PM
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