November 2008 will mark the 12th anniversary of e-gold's debut as an alternative global payment system enabling Users - individuals or businesses - to receive payment in gold at extremely low cost and without risk of the sort of payment reversals that characterize all credit based systems.
e-gold has been a pioneer in numerous areas and I am proud of its innovative accomplishments. Since 1996, the Internet has witnessed multiple online payment initiatives, several of them funded with $20-90 million of start-up capital, with distinguished founders and executive cadre, high profile brand name strategic allies, and favorable reception in the business press. But whereas Digicash, Cybercash, Beenz, Flooz, Peppercoin and a host of others each was promoted as the next big thing, all of them combined cumulatively [in their original incarnations - some have been restructured into other business models] executed less transaction volume than e-gold did in a typical single quarter.
But this note is not about success. It is about e-gold's failure to date to emerge, its failure to transition from a marginal player for early adopters to a respected institution integrated into the global financial mainstream. I am talking about a vision that has not yet been realized… and a determination to fix what needs to be improved.
e-gold's failure to emerge so far is a result of many factors but the root causes were design flaws in the account creation and provisioning logic that led to the unfortunate consequence of vulnerability to criminal abuse. Criminal abuse of the e-gold system, in turn, led to a self-reinforcing negative reputation.
Ultimately, criminal abuse of e-gold reached the point where the US Department of Justice intervened, bringing criminal charges against e-gold Ltd., Gold & Silver Reserve., Inc., (the Operator of e-gold and also of the online exchange service OmniPay), myself, and the other directors for violations of 18 USC 1960 [Operation of an unlicensed Money Transmitting Business] and 18 USC 1956 [Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering]. The criminal case has been resolved. The resolution of the criminal case however provides for a second chance, an opportunity to address the flaws embedded in the e-gold system and to transform the "e-gold Operation" into the institutions I, the other directors, and our longsuffering employees and contractors have always envisioned, one that serves to advance the material welfare of mankind.
In harmony with this transformation, we acknowledge that e-gold is indeed a Financial Institution or Agency as defined in US law and should be regulated as a Financial Institution. E-gold Ltd. has submitted an application to FinCEN to be registered as a Money Services Business and will be seeking licensure in all states that require it. Most importantly, working in conjunction with US government agencies, we will be exerting every effort to bring e-gold into compliance with US law and regulation as quickly as possible.
I am going to briefly describe the systemic problems we are undertaking to rectify and a roadmap of where the system is heading. Going from where we are now to where we need to be is going to be a bumpy road, especially at first. Many legitimate e-gold Users have already suffered loss over the past year as the measures undertaken by the government to prevent dissipation of assets have severely impacted exchange markets with resulting illiquidity of a magnitude as to effectively make it impracticable to exchange e-gold for conventional money. There will be more disruption in the next few months but it will be temporary and will set the stage for powerful new features that enhance the usability and global reach of e-gold. If there is a silver lining, it is that the more illiquid e-gold has become, the more valuable it has become due to the (apparently ongoing) decline of the US dollar relative to gold and other non-financial assets.
e-gold User Agreement Changes
Before proceeding, however, let me make something clear that should have been made more emphatically clear long ago. Use of the e-gold system for criminal activity will not be tolerated. Memorializing this resolve, the following provisions are being added to the e-gold Account User Agreement:
2.3. User agrees to not use e-gold in any manner that violates the laws of whatever jurisdiction to which the User is subject.
220.127.116.11. If e-gold investigators reasonably suspect that the e-gold account of User is being used to launder the proceeds of crime or for any other criminal purpose, Issuer may freeze the e-gold account and any other e-gold accounts of User. Additionally, at the sole discretion of Issuer, User will be subject to damages and other penalties, including criminal prosecution where available and the notification of the general public of User’s actions, at the sole discretion of Issuer.
Design flaws in legacy e-gold system
A systemic flaw in the e-gold design, present from the very beginning, made it vexingly difficult for e-gold to expel a User, in a truly effective way, for criminal abuse of the system. e-gold investigative staff might detect suspicious activity, block or freeze the offending account, and later discover the same perpetrator had created additional accounts.
One element was logic that allowed an e-gold account full privileges from the moment of creation and only revoked those privileges in the event of suspicion that the account holder was seeking to mask their identity or actually engage in illicit activity.
Compounding this weakness was an unrestricted ability for Users to create multiple accounts without any obligatory indicator that they were all under the control of one person.
The next generation of the e-gold application will undertake to enforce a "one-human being/one e-gold User" rule. Instead of the existing logic where a User logs directly into an account, a User in the next generation system logs in as a User. Only validated Users are empowered with the ability to create multiple accounts.
The advantage from the cybercrime-thwarting standpoint will be an ever-stronger ability to blacklist a person who has abused the e-gold system.
e-gold is intensively working on this next generation User-based log-in system but it is likely to be another 6-9 months to deployment. Meanwhile, emergency surgery is required NOW.
Shock Therapy phase [may it be brief!]
1) Effective immediately, new e-gold account creation is suspended until a compliant interim solution for Customer Identification can be ensured.
2) We are requesting that autoexchangers - even though the technical beauty of the autoexchanger concept is sublime – cease supporting exchanges to or from e-gold for the time being. The problem with the autoexchanger concept is that although the autoexchangers themselves may be perfectly compliant with requirements [promulgated by Webmoney and e-gold] to automatically put tracking data in their memo fields, and despite the fact that Webmoney is also committed to aiding in the suppression of cybercrime, the fact is that a substantial proportion of the cybercriminals that abuse e-gold have evolved into a modus operandi that involves autoexchanging possible proceeds of crime into Webmoney, sometimes within minutes of receiving the value, thus making interdiction a matter of catch-up or closing the barn door after the horse is gone.
We are confident that a regulated e-gold rebuilt to a more systematic specification will be less hospitable to criminals, and more attractive to mainstream business use without being less accessible to those disregarded by legacy payment systems.
Please accept our apologies for the occasional turbulence you may experience on this journey. And, as always...
Thank you for using e-gold.