It was 8:45 on the morning of June 13, when Bill Stewart, CEO of Maine-based bitcoin mining company Dynamics Mining, received a call from one of his employees. “It’s like, ‘Every machine inside our facility in Brunswick [in Cumberland County, Maine] it’s taken,’” says Stewart. “It’s crazy. I couldn’t believe it.”
He alerted staff working at another mining facility, in nearby Lewiston [in Androscoggin County, Maine], and told them to “be alert.” He thought a thief was on the loose. Stewart had a theory about who might have taken the machines: In those days, he had been arguing with a client, Compass Mining, a Delaware company that allowed people to buy mining machines and have them housed at third-party facilities like Stewart’s, due to a dispute over energy bills. Stewart thought Compass should pay them; Compass believed their contract said otherwise.
A few days earlier, Dynamics had sent Compass a termination letter demanding payment, and soon after had shut down the company’s machines. By then, Compass Mining employees had removed their equipment from Brunswick and were about to enter the Lewiston plant to retrieve more machines. “They’re trying to get into the building,” Stewart says. “And I tell my brother, who runs our security, ‘Don’t let them into the building. We are not ripping miners off the wall. Don’t let them in’”.
In a lawsuit filed against Dynamics in Delaware Court of Chancery on June 21, Compass Mining alleged that Stewart, after refusing to pay the energy bill he was supposed to pay, had been “maintaining holding this valuable team hostage in order to gain leverage in the negotiations.” As Stewart puts it, he simply wanted the removal to be done in an orderly manner, rather than hastily and under the cover of darkness. In addition, he says, for some time he had considered continuing to host the machines on behalf of Compass customers, cutting out the middleman. “Their customers were reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, can we mine directly with you?'” says Stewart. The reason it couldn’t happen, Stewart says, is that Compass hadn’t given its customers the identifying serial numbers of the machines they had bought, and Stewart had no way of knowing who owned what.
On July 5, the Court accepted Compass’ request to get its machines back, but stressed that this would have to happen after a formal request to dismantle and relocate the machines. Stewart says that during the takedown, the Compass team also took one of Dynamics’ own servers, which is confirmed in an email from one of Compass’ lawyers to Stewart, noting how the server had been “unintentionally picked up” and asking how to get back there. this
“Our team is focused on serving our customers, and will do so in accordance with the contracts we have in place with our service providers, and resolving any disputes arising from a fundamental misunderstanding of those contracts in a court of law “. Thomas Heller, interim co-CEO of Compass, said in an email interview.
Even if the Compass had prevailed, the optics of the row were terrible. Stewart had chronicled the dispute on Twitter as it unfolded, accusing Compass of owing him hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy bills and essentially breaking into Dynamics’ premises, and thundered at length against Compass on Twitter Spaces. After a meteoric rise, Compass had spent the past few months in constant crisis mode, until just hours after Stewart began tweeting about his early-morning showdown with the company, he decided to remove his general director. At the center of this crisis was Russia’s war with Ukraine and a bespectacled, curly-haired cyber security entrepreneur named Omar Todd.