Archive for December, 2015

Does a $100,000 bonus for a job well done beat a pat on the back?

US oil and gas company Hilcorp’s 1350 employees think so.

Every single employee – no matter how junior – received a $US100,000 ($137,000) bonus this year as part of a company-wide incentive program called “Dream 2015” to double the company’s size.

“It’s just a true gift”: Hilcorp receptionist Amanda Thompson. Photo: Fox26

The bonus motivated everyone to do their absolute best, said Ms Thompson, who has worked with the company for 10 years.

She told Fox 26 nobody was going to give “any less than 100 per cent each day”.

Hilcorp’s payout has been hailed as the ultimate Christmas bonus by newspapers looking for good news stories, even though the bonus was paid in the US spring.

The reward came after the privately held company realised its goal of doubling its oilfield production rate, net oil and gas reserves and equity value over five years.

It’s not the first time that the Houston-based company has given enormous bonuses.

When Hilcorp doubled its size in 2011 as part of an earlier program called “Double Drive”, each employee was rewarded with a $US50,000 voucher to spend on a “dream” car or cash.

As with many privately held US companies, the billionaire owner Jeffery Hildebrand prefers to stay out of the news.

But the company has developed a reputation as one of the best places in the US to work. And not just because of the generous bonuses and incentives.

In Fortune magazine’s annual list of great places to work, employees used words such as empowerment, freedom, responsibility and communication to describe the company.

“When you suggest an idea to upper management, they really listen to you and most of the time they will go along with the idea you suggested,” one employee said. “I never had that before with any other company.”

Fortune said the company had a “we are all in this together” culture, which manifested itself in “open book management, rich bonuses averaging 33% of pay and outrageous rewards for meeting certain goals”.

Many companies claim that their employees are their most valuable resource, but Hilcorp employees seemed to believed the claim.

The company’s core values include: “Work Like You Own the Company”, “When Hilcorp Wins, We All Win” and “Get Better Every Day”.

The company’s website says Hilcorp is a company where the employees have the autonomy to make decisions, a place where all its employees can develop and grow a career in a field they are passionate about.

“We are committed to unlocking energy for the betterment of our employees and our communities,” it says.

“We are a place where the employees share in the success of the company. At Hilcorp, we work together as a team; we focus intensely on a common goal and dedicate ourselves to the long-term.

“Simply put, we work hard, smart, accomplish our goals and share the reward for achieving our objectives. This is the Hilcorp Way.”

The company was not available for further comment

Henry Sapiecha

 

  • Bitcoin’s mysterious creator could be Australian Craig Steven Wright

Police and tax investigators have raided the Sydney home of a man that members of the Australian bitcoin community say might be the mastermind behind the controversial cryptocurrency, just hours after reports emerged in the United States suggesting that he may be its secretive creator.

However, Fairfax Media has been told the raid at the property of Craig Steven Wright relates to an “individual taxation matter” involving Mr Wright, rather than his apparent role in creating the encrypted currency.

The alleged creator of Bitcoin, Australian Craig Steven Wright.

Photo: soldierx.com

The Australian Federal Police attended Mr Wright’s home in Gordon, on Sydney’s north shore, on Wednesday afternoon to assist the Australian Taxation Office in carrying out a search.

In a report published on Wednesday morning, US tech publication Wired said it had uncovered enough evidence to suggest that bitcoin’s mysterious founder, who operated under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, was actually 44-year-old Mr Wright.

Wired acknowledged that its report was based on “unverified leaked documents” that it admitted “could be faked in whole or in part”.

Fairfax Media attempted to contact Mr Wright for comment but received no response. The Australian Federal Police referred matters to the ATO. The ATO declined to comment.

Mr Wright is listed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as a director of Hotwire and another company, Panopticrypt, which are both registered at a residential address on Sydney’s North Shore. He has been a shareholder and director in a range of other enterprises, the ASIC database shows.

This Sydney property owned by Craig Steven Wright was searched by police on Wednesday.

He is also listed as chief executive on the website of a company called DeMorgan, which describes itself “a pre-IPO Australian listed company focused on alternative currency, next generation banking and reputational and educational products.” Calls to this company went straight to voicemail.

‘He was a bit weird’

At about 4.15pm, the real estate agent managing the Gordon home leased by Mr Wright entered the house after being told by a neighbour, who knew the owners, that it was being searched.

The AFP and tax investigators raid Craig Wright’s home in Gordon.

Photo: Nick Moir

Federal Police and the ATO officers were then later seen leaving the property, at 4.50pm. Asked why the federal police were at the house, they offered “no comment”.

Neighbours, who didn’t wish to named, said Mr Wright was an elusive man who had two children and a partner. He had an expensive taste in cars, they said, having seen him pull up to the house in a Toyota Land Cruiser, a Lexus, and a Jaguar.

Mr Wright, his partner, and children were not seen within the vicinity of the house.

Apart from owning a dog, which one neighbour described as “noisy”, he also owned hens, which could be seen out the back of his house.

“I thought he did something with insurance or was an entrepreneur or something,” said one neighbour, who described Wright as a “daggy dad” often seen exercising in his garage gym. “He was a bit weird.”

Another neighbour said Mr Wright apparently had three-phase, 450-volt power — normally used for industrial applications — installed at the home.

The same neighbour said he recently heard that Wright had packed up the house as he was apparently off to go live in London. None of the neighbours interviewed said that Wright had told them he was the creator of Bitcoin.

Plausible candidate

Chris Guzowski, founder of ABA Technologies and a regular on the Bitcoin conference circuit, said Wired had uncovered enough circumstantial evidence for Mr Wright to be a plausible candidate.

“It certainly makes sense,” said Mr Guzowski. “He’s definitely been in Bitcoin from the very start and has accumulated a really big stash of Bitcoin. He’s also been in this huge stoush with the ATO for a long time.”

Andrew Sommer, a partner at Clayton Utz and who testified at last year’s Senate Inquiry into digital currency, is reputedly Mr White’s lawyer.

But Mr Sommer said he couldn’t comment on any client when contacted by Fairfax.

Zhenya Tsvetnenko, founder of bitcoin remittancy company Digital BTC, has discussed business with Mr Wright previously and was struck by his understanding of Bitcoin and his long history with the protocol.

“It could definitely be him, I remember thinking this guy could be Satoshi at the time,” Mr Tsvetnenko said

“I asked him how many Bitcoin he had and he said enough to buy a pizza. Which is a joke because it’s well known in the Bitcoin community the first thing bought with the very first Bitcoin was a pizza.”

The Wired story was not the first time a media outlet has claimed to reveal the true identity of bitcoin’s founder.

Last year, US magazine Newsweek said it had found the mysterious person behind the cryptocurrency t. However the man it named, Dorien Nakamoto, unconditionally denied Newsweek’s claim, and subsequently sued the publication.

The Wired report cites archived blog posts from as far back as 2008, purportedly written by Mr Wright, which discuss aspects of the distributed ledger that is a key element of bitcoin, as well as leaked emails and a liquidation report by Australian corporate recovery firm McGrath Nicol involving one of Mr Wright’s companies.

McGrath Nicol confirmed the veracity of the liquidation report, which states that the company, called Hotwire Preemptive Intelligence, was backed by $30 million in capital that was “injected via bitcoins”.

Potential hoax

Wired acknowledged that the trail of evidence leading to Mr Wright could be part of an elaborate hoax.

Asher Tan of CoinJar, Australia’s largest bitcoin exchange, said he was skeptical of Wired‘s claim, pointing out the bitcoin community relies on mathematical proof.

Solid technical proof should be given more weight than speculation, he said.

“There are some methods of doing this,” Mr Tan said. These would include “moving bitcoin attributed to Satoshi’s personal stash or utilising his personal encryption key (PGP) to communicate.

“These aren’t foolproof methods of identifying him, but anyone who publicly stakes a claim to being Satoshi would be expected to demonstrate either of these methods.”

The New York Times, which conducted an inconclusive investigation of its own into the matter, has described Mr Nakamoto’s identity as “one of the great mysteries of the digital age”.

But many in the bitcoin community believe that the identity of the person (or people) behind Nakamoto is irrelevant, since the virtual currency is an open source and community driven technology. It sure is a fun story though.

Do you know Satoshi Nakamoto? Email our reporters.

Henry Sapiecha