Chapter 3: About Ferdinando Ametrano (aka: my little dirty secret)

Giacomo Zucco
Sep 16, 2017 · 8 min read

I seriously doubt that this last “chapter” will be of real interest for anyone in the space, actually: unfortunately I am forced to publish it in order to explain the context and the reasons behind the defamation attempt I suffered in the last days. It was actually just this attack, related to a Bitcoin project sponsored by the company Eidoo, described in Chapter 2, that convinced me to open a personal medium account for the first time (I would have a lot of more interesting things to do). Anyway, this write-up could prove useful for any people actually considering the possibility to enter in any kind of business or personal relationship with this guy, Ferdinando Ametrano. If that’s the case, read this first. Than don’t trust me, verify, and decide your strategy.

Let’s start with a flashback. Intesa Sanpaolo bank’s employee Ferdinando Ametrano has been introduced to me a couple of years ago, by a common friend. Ametrano had been reading about Bitcoin since weeks, while I was already following this ecosystem since years, but he was very interested in learning more. During the first meeting he kept insisting on the need for an altcoin that he invented, capable of “achieving monetary stability”, overcoming what he considered to be an insurmountable flaw of Bitcoin. The classic behavior: “I’ve just heard about Bitcoin, I’m here to fix it”.

Few weeks later I met him again at the Amsterdam Bitcoin Conference, while he was trying to convince international personalities about the actual need for his altcoin. I took the responsibility to act as a connecting hub, introducing him to everybody I knew. Few days later, on his request, I’ve brought to his office some of the best Italian developers, including Lawrence Nahum, the creator of GreenAddress, and Riccardo Casatta, the future creator of Eternity Wall. Ametrano immediately leveraged my introduction to involve GreenAddress in some weird business proposals, speaking on behalf of the bank that employs him (all of this was later revealed to be just based on nothing).

During the next months, I’ve introduced Ametrano to the whole Italian community, and I’ve even asked him to be part of the scientific committee of my project, BHB Network: he didn’t know much, yet, but he seemed willing to learn and focus on the topic, and his professional position in a bank had some institutional appeal that I thought we could use. Unfortunately, his only contribution over two years consisted in few meetings aimed to promote his altcoin idea with BHB’s experts, but his external credibility benefited from this role. I was fundamentally ok with this, anyway, because Ametrano was slowly changing his views, through the constant interactions with many of the experts I was introducing him to, basically turning into a “Bitcoin maximalist”, just like us. Having one “maximalist” among the employees of an important bank, seemed to us strategically useful, and quite funny as well.

Ironically, it appears that the only strategic advantage was a “negative” one. When I was in negotiation with his employer bank, to offer the consultancy of BHB, Ametrano was asking them to create a startup to launch his altcoin: he would have been the CEO, of course, and the startup would have raised a lot of money via people’s investments in a “token”, whose value would have, according to him, increased over time, guaranteeing profit for the owners and the stability of another “token”…an ICO, basically. I have no hard evidence for what I am about to write, but consistent rumor was that Ametrano was personally so unpopular, in his work environment, that the desire to avoid using the “blockchain” budget of the bank for his weird altcoin-ICO project did actually help the management to decide to hire us instead, as an alternative. Regardless of this interpretation, I think and hope that this turned out to be a intelligent and useful choice, for the bank.

Soon later Ametrano became the “Head of Blockchain and Digital Currency” department of the bank. A fair choice, actually, from a technical point of view: he was probably back then among the guys who spent more time studying the topic. But not so good a choice from a professional/human point of view, unfortunately. Working with him turned out to be impossible: he kept creating conflicts and quarrels in order to get more importance and visibility, turning out to be toxic and destructive. The bank removed him from the just acquired position, officially instructing him to not work on any blockchain-related topic anymore. Ametrano tried to sell off this event differently, framing it as “him voluntarily leaving the position because of his disagreement on the strategy”. I knew for a fact that this wasn’t true, but I have to admit I’ve never debunked his lies, which I thought could help our “maximalists” position in a way: back then it was just about “fighting against a common enemy”, namely the “private blockchains” narrative. The bank also officially asked me (reasonably, given the disasters created by him) to exclude Ametrano from the Scientific Committee of BHB Network. I kindly refused, leveraging a different contractual device (the exclusion of Ametrano from all PoCs and reports created for that specific client).

Let’s jump to early summer 2016. Back then we were very happy to celebrate a wonderful result for our community: the organisation in Milan of the third edition of the prestigious conference Scaling Bitcoin. When we had to choose the “Chairman” of the local organisational committee, Ametrano frantically insisted to have that role, for his own legitimization and visibility goals. Even if there was some initial opposition, I managed to convince everybody to accept: it seemed to me a big gain for him, with no relevant cost on our side. I became the main promoter of this choice, but then I had to regret once again my support for this person: for three months Ametrano did absolutely nothing for the organisation of Scaling Bitcoin, even skipping the weekly update calls, and he just showed up during the conference to do his “Chairman” role. The situation caused us a lot of embarrassment with the international organizers, but I have always covered Ametrano in front of them, taking responsibility for everything. This created frictions, that lasted very long and contributed (together with other independent reasons) to the the fact that I’m not involved in the organization of the 2017 edition.

Another of the many stupid things I did was, months later, to introduce Ametrano to the consultancy company BTO Research. We were discussing with this company about a possible partnership in the context of our “Academy” and educational activities. I’ve introduced Ametrano to the BTO executives as “our man” for education projects, on his request. At the first meeting, when Ametrano realized that a partnership was too difficult to create, he distanced himself from BHB and asked BTO to hire him directly (but still maintaining his full time job as a bank employee, I don’t know how), to have him as a teacher for their courses, in direct competition with us. We asked him to work with us instead, or at the very least to not engage a direct competition with BHB, because he was actively leveraging, since many months, his connection with BHB and with me in order to have access to the major international experts and to all the information we gathered and structured. He didn’t accept: the only way he proposed in order to maintain this “professional loyalty” (in reality, just simple human decency) was his full-time hiring for a total yearly budget of 250’000 euros. I can confirm and prove that the amount requested by him was exactly this. In exchange, he would have also “brought back to us” some clients that he had previously “directed” to BTO. As it turned out impossible to comply with this request, he kept selling everything he could learn in the relationship with us using a competing firm (he even arrived to the poin fo using internal BHB channels to spam his personal referral codes for the workshops organized with the competitor: so shameless it was actually almost funny).

At this point, obviously, our professional relationship was seriously compromised, but I didn’t take serious countermeasures. He was writing me “tear-jerking” messages all the time, he invited me to long lunches or dinners, asking his family members to intercede with me, telling me with a sad face that he “cared about our friendship beyond business”. I have to admit that I am often easy to influence with this kind of manipulative tactics. I decided to keep our relationship friendly, and he continued to take advantage of my relationships and activities.

Then, last march, he decided to start another drama. The setting was his attempt to take-over the Italian “Blockchain advocacy association”, that I funded with some friends and partners almost 4 years ago. The pretext was some silly accusation, revolving around free tickets for a fintech conference: he violently attacked the president of the association, Gabriele Domenichini, as well as other honest and respectable people in the board, disrupting every associative activity for weeks over nothing and pushing for Gabriele’s resignations. When his take-over attempt failed, he quit the association, calling every corporate member and pushing for them to follow him.

That’s when I finally decided (way past due) to expel Ametrano from the BHB’s Scientific Committee. He literally came crying to me, but I managed to resist the personal manipulation. Since then, Ametrano become obsessed with me, and he leveraged every possible excuse in order to defame, slander and vilify me.

The culmination was his lies about my alleged support for Eidoo’s Ethereum projects and ICO. As I explained in Chapter 2, I am actually consulting Eidoo about how to avoid using Ethereum or naive appcoin models, to reach their same goals. He used three pretexts to build his defamation campaign: he misrepresented our relationship with the companies Eidoo and Digital Identity, he manipulated some statements that I gave against the legal ban or regulation of ICOs (I am a libertarian, I don’t believe in governments, regulations, politicians, bureaucrats, while Ametrano stated that these things are “the cornerstone of civilization”), he leveraged an ambiguous communication on Eidoo’s website (BHB’s partners and external contractors were represented there in a way that almost resembled an “internal team” somehow related with the Ethereum wallet, instead of just people working on an open source Bitcoin project sponsored by the same company). Of course, this allegation is false, as any involved party confirmed. Finally, Ametrano started to behave like a real stalker: he sent to italian national newspapers a document with false allegations against me, containing screenshots of private conversation with my personal phone number in clear, he tweeted about my company address, he threatened companies working with me about reputational damages if they don’t quit any collaboration. A real obsession.

I hope this is the last time I have to annoy the “general public” with this pathetic, sad, private and uninteresting drama. Many defamed company are now preparing lawsuits (I will personally not sue him, I’m not fond of this kind of stuff), and people in the Italian community at this point know very well this individual, so that I don’t need to constantly defend myself or others against his lies. We all have more interesting thing to do, write, read, think about. To the moon.