Epik’s Masterbucks is a huge Clusterf*ck

For weeks, users of NamePros, an online community of domain name investors, have been complaining about their inability to withdraw funds from Masterbucks. Masterbucks is a payments platform run by Epik, a controversial domain name provider and web host whose clients include social media sites like Parler and Gab, as well as far-right forum TheDonald. Epik’s new CEO Brian Royce said he has high expectations for the company and wants to see it become a competitor to PayPal and CashApp. But with only two months to work, it was a rough start.

The earliest posts complaining about the exit date back to September 8, just six days after Royce was named CEO. The truly avalanche of complaints started with a post on September 20.

“This happened on August 23, 2022, and it went on for almost a month without any procedures,” the user wrote. “Masterbucks.com declined my withdrawal and disabled the withdraw button… What’s wrong with Epik.com?”

Other uses soon started venting similar frustrations in the same thread. Nine days later, Domain Name Wire reported that Royce said the company had taken Masterbucks offline for maintenance and would be back online on October 10. Deadlines were missed, new terms of service and fees were added, and frustrated NamePros users continued to pile on the thread. At the time of writing, the thread has received over 2,620 replies, with some users complaining that they still haven’t seen their funds. Meanwhile, Epik has a one-star rating on review site Trustpilot, with most people complaining that they can’t get funding.

Funds are held from transactions that users make on the Epik platform, which includes domain name marketplaces and escrow services. Users can use Masterbucks funds to pay for hosting and transact on the Epik platform. The Masterbucks website bills itself as a “convenient withdrawal dashboard,” offering a variety of transfer options. But transferring funds has been inconvenient for many Masterbucks users over the past two months.

While it’s difficult to estimate the total amount Masterbucks is currently in limbo, some users shared screenshots of their accounts with Daily Dot showing pending withdrawals. One user who made a withdrawal request on October 14 still had more than $50,000 tied up on the platform.

This isn’t the first time Epik has been involved in a scandal. Last year, Epik faced uproar again after a massive data breach exposed the identities and personal information of many users.

In an interview with the Daily Dot, Royce repeatedly stressed that customers will be paid what they deserve, but it will take time. “We’re trying to address all of these issues,” Royce said. “As we deal with regulatory banking and compliance issues, we will get everyone to pay in order as quickly as possible.”

Royce described the state of accounting in bright, critical terms, which he later asked not to publish verbatim. It appears he was having some trouble with Epik, which ran the Masterbucks platform without meeting regulatory know-your-customer (KYC) requirements that allow banks and other financial institutions to confirm the identities of the organizations and individuals they conduct business with and Make sure these entities are acting legally.

This is especially important for Masterbucks, which offers direct payments, wire transfers, and PayPal transfers – all of which have specific KYC requirements.

“We belong to one club, right?” said Reus. “The United States of America is our club. If we live here, we’re members, even if we don’t want to be. But we are, they have rules, they have rules, they have these crazy guys called IRS agents.”

Regulatory issues “have sprung up like mushrooms,” as Royce said, and he was named Epik’s CEO to get the company compliant before things get worse. It’s unclear when Epik found himself in this regulatory bind, but Royce said he was given “effective three months” to correct software issues, accounting issues and jump over regulatory hurdles to ensure Masterbucks was properly licensed And operate more like a bank.

“It’s clear we’re not a bank,” Royce said. “But that’s where we’re going. We want to be a legitimate competitor to PayPal. We have to do all the necessary things as quickly as possible, while obviously serving our customers.”

Verified customers on NamePros complain about unresponsive customer service, software bugs, lack of updates from leadership, and most frustratingly, they have been unable to withdraw funds. The comments from TruthPilot were equally brutal, with some claiming they had tied up six-figure sums on the Masterbucks platform. Some have begun to speculate publicly about potential financial misconduct behind the Masterbucks problems. Several users contacted Daily Dot and shared screenshots of their pending transactions.

Royce disputed those concerns immediately.

“Every year when I meet my kids’ teachers, I tell them, don’t believe everything you hear about me, and I’m not going to believe everything I hear about you,” Royce said. “But I know we have to go faster. We’re doing our best, but unfortunately a lot of different pieces have to come together to make all these things work.”

Given Epik’s recent history and problems, Royce may have the job done for him.

Epik faces a massive data breach in September 2021. The hacker group Anonymous exploited a critical security flaw and then stole and dumped vast amounts of the company’s data. As a result of the leak, some far-right website owners have been exposed. After days of radio silence, Epik founder and former CEO Rob Monster held a bizarre online “prayer meeting” in which he described to an audience of reporters and hackers the source of Epik’s security flaws: bad Russian code.

“We bought some crappy Russian code, and we didn’t really have a chance to evaluate the code until we were done, until we really had everything under control,” Monster said.

Royce told Daily DoTon From an operational standpoint, he wanted to do things differently. While the Monster may not know good code and bad code, Royce is a computer engineer by training and says the first big update he made as CEO was about the security of the platform. Maybe he’ll change the way Epik works. But despite these differences, Royce aligns with Monster’s absolutist stance on free speech that makes his platform so controversial.

“Epik will continue to support free speech. It is very important to me to see the core values ​​of liberty, truth and liberty reflected in everything we do at Epik,” Royce said in the release at the start. “When I see what’s going on across America, I worry about free speech. People are actively trying to shut up Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, etc., just because they tell jokes.”

In an Oct. 24 podcast on Domain Name Wire, Royce said he likes Alex Jones, who is currently facing a more than $1 billion legal verdict for defamatory comments about the Sandy Hook massacre. “Tell me what you think of Alex Jones,” Royce said. “I personally like this guy. I’ve seen him countless times.”

On the same podcast, Royce was asked about custodial funds and whether they were separate from Epik’s operating funds. When he took over as Epik’s CEO, Royce said, “there was a lot of mixing and business separation that wasn’t there.”

An escrow account is an account designed to temporarily hold funds for clients. Mixing custodial and working funds not only creates regulatory issues, but may also create liquidity issues if too many clients try to withdraw funds at the same time.

Royce told Daily Dot He did not want to comment on the accounting practices of Monster’s past leadership, who now holds the non-executive function of chairman of the board. When asked directly about the mix of funds, his answer was veiled.

“To be clear, anyone doing business through Masterbucks will get paid,” Royce said. “Any deal that happens after I take office is sacrosanct and I can be very careful talking to those people and say there’s no problem with those deals. But the deals before I took over the position, we’re still figuring it out. I have to honest.”

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