Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, is pushing back hard against allegations that the crypto exchange set up its U.S. arm to circumvent regulations and surreptitiously profit from investors.
According to an Oct. 29 article from Forbes contributor Michael Del Castillo, the news outlet claims to have obtained a leaked presentation outlining Binance’s plans for operating in the United States. The document states that in 2018 — prior to the launch of Binance.US — the crypto exchange intended to set up a “Tai Chi entity” in the U.S. to act as a type of regulatory lightning rod protecting its main operations from enforcement.
“While the then-unnamed entity set up operations in the United States to distract regulators with feigned interest in compliance, measures would be put in place to move revenue in the form of licensing fees and more to the parent company, Binance,” stated Castillo. “All the while, potential customers would be taught how to evade geographic restrictions while technological work-arounds were put in place.”
In a response made roughly an hour after the article’s publication, Changpeng Zhao, or CZ, disputed many of the claims, stating that the source — the leaked document — was “not produced by a Binance employee.” Castillo believed that former employee Harry Zhou created the presentation.
“Binance has always operated within the boundaries of the law,” stated the CEO. “We do not acknowledge the alleged document.“
CZ claimed that the fact the firm has opened exchanges in several countries is evidence it is willing to comply with regulatory framework “with proper licensing and applications” and stated Binance “has very strong collaboration with many notable law enforcement agencies worldwide.” He said Binance’s operations in the U.S. have “very strong restrictions and operating procedures in place.”
However, the Forbes report described parallels between this Tai Chi plan purportedly conceived in 2018 and the trajectory of Binance.US, which launched in September 2019. The exchange currently operates in 40 U.S. states.
Castillo stated the document suggested the business entity participate in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cornerstone Program for detecting weaknesses in the financial systems to “distract” agencies including the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, and Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, and the New York Department of Financial Services, or NYDFS. According to Forbes, Binance’s United States arm did so.
The ownership structure of Binance.US, operated by BAM Trading Services in San Francisco, is also somethingof a mystery. CEO Catherine Coley has claimed there are no ownership ties to Binance — CZ himself called Binance.US “a standalone marketplace” — but Castillo reported the leaked document stated BAM would continue to “license trading and wallet technology” from the crypto exchange.
The presentation also purportedly called for the business entity to use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to obscure the locations of crypto traders and bypass existing regulations. Citizens living in ten U.S. states can not legally use Binance.US at the time of publication, yet Binance Academy has a beginner’s guide to VPNs on its website. CZ has also advocated for the technology on Twitter.
Responding to the claims on Twitter, CZ stated “Anyone can produce a ‘strategy document’, but it does not mean Binance follows them.”