Voyage to Nowhere

Michael Flack

“REGRETS, I’VE HAD a few. But then again, too few to mention.”

What was true for Frank Sinatra most definitely isn’t true for me. I’ve had more than a few regrets, and I want to mention the most recent one.

Late last year, Mark Cuban offered me $100 in bitcoin to download the Voyager app, deposit $100 and make a $10 trade. For those of you who are lucky enough not to know what Voyager was, it was an app that offered “a secure way to trade over 60 different crypto assets using its easy-to-use mobile application.”

I’ve been retired now for a few years. Since idle hands are the devil’s workshop, I’ve used some of the time to accept bonuses offered by brokers, banks and financial institutions. Besides the obvious reward, I find these offers to be educational, though this time it was a little too educational.

Like most people, I was intrigued when I first heard about bitcoin. After a colleague explained to me its inner workings and all the benefits of the blockchain, I was fascinated. I really thought that bitcoin might be worthy of investment.

This didn’t last long. I realized that bitcoin may not be all it was cracked up to be when, a few hours later, I tried to explain it all to my wife and none of it made any sense.

I should have gone on living bitcoin-free. But when Cuban made me the offer, I figured that—even if bitcoin went to zero—I would still have my original $100. I decided to play it safe. I made the required $10 trade with a quick roundtrip in and out of tether, a cryptocurrency designed to trade one-to-one with the U.S. dollar.

In the end, I decided not to sell the bitcoin that Cuban gave me. I figured that if there was something to this cryptocurrency thing that had eluded my less-than-discerning eye, I could use the rubric “nothing ventured nothing gained” and ride it all the way to financial independence. It also allowed me the more tangible benefit of mentioning at cocktail parties that, “Of course I’m invested in bitcoin.” That said, I should have transferred the $100 in cash that was mine back to my bank, but I may have become preoccupied with taking Personal Capital up on its $25 offer.

Well, on July 1, 2022, Voyager informed me that it had “made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend trading, deposits, withdrawals, and loyalty rewards,” though it would still allow users “to view market data and track your portfolio.”

I could view my investments. I just couldn’t withdraw them. Apparently, my money had been loaned to an outfit called Three Arrows Capital. The crypto hedge fund failed to repay the $670 million it borrowed from Voyager, which triggered Voyager’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on July 6.

While I always knew my bitcoin investment could go to zero, I figured that the sliver of bitcoin and the $100 in my account would still be mine. I never thought they would be loaned to another company. Yes, I should be more concerned about my losses in the stock market year-to-date and not the measly $100 I “invested” in Voyager. Still, the whole thing is rather upsetting. Nobody wants to be the mark, especially for someone like Mark Cuban.

Voyager is currently exploring “strategic alternatives with various interested parties while preserving the value of the Voyager platform.” I hope this will allow me to “access” my $100 and 0.000046 of a bitcoin, but I’m doubtful. I’m just thankful I didn’t “invest” more. I now have the meager benefit of being a little warier of making similar future investments—though I’m also thinking Garlicoin may be a way to make my money back.

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