Bitcoin, released to the world in 2009 by a person or people called Satoshi Nakamoto, is not backed by a central bank or a government and is seen as an alternative payment system. In February 2013, Bitcoin went into the mainstream as a monetary crisis threatened to bankrupt Cyprus, seen as a safer bet. Early adopters of Bitcoin have been richly rewarded as the price has soared – in one case, a young Norwegian bought a house from an $850,000 windfall on a US$22 investment.
Bitcoin Foundation members quit over election of troubled ex-Disney child star
The most prominent trade group pushing adoption of the bitcoin has been rocked by controversy as it begins its annual conference.
At least 10 members of the non-profit Bitcoin Foundation have resigned over the election of one-time Disney child star and bitcoin entrepreneur Brock Pierce as a new director.
Some of the members cited Pierce's troubled past.
That includes allegations in lawsuits from three employees of Pierce's first company, bankrupt web video business Digital Entertainment Network, that he provided drugs and pressured them for sex when they were minors.
Pierce has denied the accusations, which first surfaced in 2000. "The allegations against me are not true, and I have never had intimate or sexual contact with any of the people who made those allegations," Pierce said.
Court records show 33-year-old Pierce, who played the title role in the Disney movie First Kid, paid more than US$21,000 to settle one employee suit. He said others dropped their claims without money changing hands.
While Bitcoin Foundation officials played down the defections, several members who resigned from the foundation criticised its governance track record.
"The track record of prominent Bitcoin Foundation members has been abysmal," said Patrick Alexander, a resigning foundation member in a post on its discussion pages. "I no longer want to be associated with these people."
The programming effort that governs how bitcoin works is led by Gavin Andresen, who is chief scientist at the foundation and is paid a salary from it.
The foundation also plays an important role for bitcoin in lobbying on its behalf in various jurisdictions as authorities grapple with how to police the semi-anonymous currency.
Bitcoin Foundation general counsel Patrick Murck said that his group had more than 1,500 members and would bounce back from the latest controversy.
"Democracy is messy sometimes," Murck said. "If, in the future, members decide they want to have a vetting process, that's great."
Pierce was voted in by the foundation's industry members, who pay higher dues, to fill one of two spots vacated by others who had resigned.
They were Mark Karpeles, chief executive of the bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, and Charlie Shrem, who has been charged with conspiring to launder money for users of the shuttered Silk Road underground drug bazaar.