Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao is resigning as part of a deal with the US Department of Justice, according to reports. The Wall Street Journal reports that Zhao will plead guilty to violating anti-money laundering rules and that the crypto exchange will pay more than $4 billion in fines.
A source with knowledge of the company’s succession plan told WIRED that Richard Teng, currently head of regional markets at Binance, will likely take over. Teng was the CEO of Abu Dhabi Global Market, a financial regulator in the United Arab Emirates. Teng would be a popular choice among Binance staff.
Zhao reportedly resides in the United Arab Emirates. Although the country signed a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States, under which the two countries agreed to exchange information relating to criminal investigations, there is no formal extradition treaty and it would have been “very difficult” to bring him. in a court in the United States, according to John Stark, a former SEC lawyer, speaking before the settlement was announced.
Last year, Zhao made a habit of responding to negative headlines on X, formerly Twitter, by posting the “4,” a symbol he adopted to dismiss allegations made against the company as FUD unfounded (short for fear, uncertainty and doubt). But the US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into Binance was an open secret in crypto circles, and Binance insiders say staff were eagerly awaiting the charges to be dropped, amid a “general sense of doom “.
Binance is by far the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, with around 40% global market share, and is an important part of the infrastructure that underpins the crypto industry. The DOJ settlement would allow Binance to continue operating in the United States, albeit under stricter supervision.
The company also faces two civil lawsuits in the United States, brought by the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), alleging, among other things, commingling of customer assets, violations of the fight against money laundering and artificially inflate transaction volumes.
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