SEC Provides Binance a Lifeline as It Pursues Fraud Charges

A federal court has approved an agreement between Binance co-founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao and the Securities and Exchange Commission that will allow the embattled cryptocurrency firm to continue operating while fighting an SEC civil fraud lawsuit, the outcome of which may determine the future of the crypto business in the United States. Filed June 5, the Binance charge rocked an industry already reeling from market turmoil and SEC complaints against Coinbase and the founder of FTX. The SEC initially moved to freeze Binance’s U.S. assets, but the company said that would put it out of business here.

“Under a consent order signed on Saturday, Binance.US has agreed to repatriate assets held for the benefit of domestic customers and keep them under control of domestic personnel,” ensuring that parent Binance Holdings and Zhao, a Chinese-born Canadian businessman, “do not have access to such funds,” writes Forbes.

The agreement mandates the firm “limit company spending to regular business expenses; and submit to expedited discovery regarding the custody and security of client assets,” notes Forbes.

Because Binance and Zhao “have been able to commingle customer assets or divert customer assets as they please,” an SEC statement says the protections are essential.

The SEC’s crypto crackdown was precipitated by the meltdown of FTX in early November that resulted in a now-notorious lawsuit, filed the following month, against founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

While that action appears to have come too late to save investor assets, the SEC is now taking a proactive approach, suing Binance and Coinbase before they possibly go bust. A Binance spokesperson told Forbes that “user funds have been and always will be safe and secure on all Binance-affiliated platforms.”

“The agreement to safeguard customer assets in the United States would resolve the first of what could be many legal skirmishes to come,” writes The New York Times, explaining that the SEC’s “sweeping civil fraud lawsuit” charges Binance and Zhao “with mishandling customers’ deposits, lying to regulators and allowing market manipulation to proliferate on the exchange.”

As the crypto industry continues to roil, regulatory pressure is heating up. While some companies are digging in to do battle against regulators and in court, “others are exploring options outside the United States, decamping to countries with more lenient regulations,” per NYT.

According to Statista, after nosediving last year, the U.S. crypto market shows 105 percent growth in 2023, when it continued to be the no. 1 crypto market in the world by revenue, at $17.96 billion.

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