Binance and Changpeng Zhao are entangled in a legal battle with the SEC. Image source: Getty

Binance CEO Steps Down, Pays $76 Million In Fines: A Full Timeline Of Events

5 min read

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The crypto world, probably unhappy that the OpenAI saga is stealing its thunder, has finally decided to stir up some drama. Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, just saw its CEO Changpeng Zhao (“CZ”), a.k.a. the crypto world’s overlord, step down.

This is not an isolated event. Rather, it is an epic battle that has been boiling for months. Since at least the first half of 2023, Binance has been entangled in a complex legal tussle with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ).

For those who can’t quite grasp the severity of this, it’s like a volcano waiting to erupt. It’s like Avengers: Infinity War, and to some, SEC chief Gary Gensler is Thanos waiting to snap his fingers and obliterate the crypto world.

Here’s a chronicle of everything that has happened with Binance since May. Buckle up, folks!

Latest update on Binance, November 23, 2023:

US prosecutors ask for CZ to stay in the US and not return to Dubai, arguing that he poses a flight risk.

May 18, 2023:

Binance Australia suspends Australian dollar fiat deposits with immediate effect. The crypto exchange says that “due to a decision made by our third party payment service provider”, it is unable to facilitate PayID deposits of AUD.  

Binance Australia also announced that it will stop offering Australian dollar fiat deposits on June 1. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) stripped the platform of its financial services licence in April.

May 31, 2023:

Bloomberg reports that Binance has named Richard Teng to run all of the exchange’s regional markets outside of the US. This expands on his previous role leading Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Teng joined Binance just under two years ago in September 2021 as CEO of Binance Singapore.

Wu Blockchain, citing sources, says that Binance had begun layoffs but the proportion is “uncertain”. CZ denies the news on Twitter as “FUD”. He further clarifies that Binance has an ongoing program where they “constantly say goodbye to people who are not strong fits with the company.” 

June 1, 2023:

Binance revealed in a filing that Canada’s securities regulator opened an investigation into the crypto exchange on May 10. The exchange withdrew from Canada two days later on May 12.

Binance Australia stops offering AUD deposits.

June 2, 2023:
Binance says it will delist 12 privacy coins, including ZCash, Monero, and MobileCoin, in France, Italy, Poland, and Spain on June 26. The crypto exchange says the move is part of an “ongoing compliance process” with regulators.

June 5, 2023:

Reuters releases an exclusive report on senior Binance executive Guangying Chen, a close associate of CZ. According to Reuters, Chen operated five Silvergate Bank accounts belonging to Binance US, which is purportedly an independent affiliate of Binance.

Binance US spokesperson Christian Hertenstein responded that “no one other than Binance US officials have had control or access to Binance US accounts.” 

June 6, 2023:

The SEC files a lawsuit against Binance, Binance US, and CZ for offering unregistered securities. The lawsuit has 13 charges in total, and Binance is also sued for misleading investors, and for not stopping US investors from accessing

Gary Gensler says in a statement that Binance and CZ “misled investors about their risk controls and corrupted trading volumes while actively concealing who was operating the platform, the manipulative trading of its affiliated market maker, and even where and with whom investor funds and crypto assets were custodied.”

In the SEC’s mammoth 136-page lawsuit, several tokens have also been listed as securities. They include metaverse tokens offered by Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Axie Infinity.

Amid the lawsuit, data from blockchain tracker Nansen shows that Binance recorded outflows of US$780 million (AU$1.17 billion) in Ethereum from investors in the past 24 hours.

CZ quotes Gary Gensler’s post on Twitter and mocks the SEC chief.

“Wonder if he ever reads the comments under his post, from the consumers he is supposed to protect,” he wrote.

June 7, 2023:

The SEC files a temporary restraining order against Binance US at the court for the District of Columbia, freezing Binance’s assets.

If the temporary restraining order is granted, Binance US will have 30 days to “transfer all customer crypto assets to new wallets with new private keys, including new administrative keys,” according to a separate filing. According to the filing, this is to ensure that Binance US customers’ information would be separated from Binance’s other entities.

CZ continues to assure his followers on Twitter that the SEC’s move is targeted at Binance US, not the entire company, and that all funds are safe and secure.

June 8, 2023:

In the SEC’s filing to freeze Binance US’ assets, the Commission accuses Binance and Binance US of “redirecting over US$12 billion (AU$18 billion) in customer funds to entities controlled by co-founder and CEO CZ between 2019 and 2021.

Lawyers at Binance allege that Gary Gensler offered to serve as advisor to Binance in 2019. At the time, Gensler was working at MIT Sloan’s School of Management. Gensler was then appointed as SEC chief in 2021.

June 16, 2023:

Binance comes under investigation in France for alleged “illegal” provision of digital asset services, and alleged “acts of aggravated money laundering.”

Binance responded that it had an on-site visit by French authorities, and that they “abide by all laws in France, just as we do in every other market we operate.” CZ, again, described the news as FUD.

Around the same time, Binance announced that it has quit the Netherlands. “Starting from 2023-07-17 at 00:00 UTC (2023-07-17 at 02:00 UTC+2), existing Dutch resident users will only be able to withdraw assets from the Binance platform,” Binance said.

June 20, 2023:

Citing sources, Protos reports that police and financial regulators in a few European nations are collaborating with the SEC to “unravel more information on Binance.”

August 31 to September 12, 2023:

High-level Binance executives begin to depart the crypto exchange. Layoffs take place.

Binance’s head of Asia-Pacific, Leon Foong, reportedly leaves. Binance.US CEO Brian Shroder leaves. A Wall Street Journal report says that in the past three months, over a dozen senior executives have left.

September 27 to November 15, 2023:

Binance fully exits the Russian market, selling the rest of its business to CommEX. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the crypto exchange also plans to shut down its rubles payment partnership with Belize-registered payment solutions firm Advcash.

Binance.US stops users from withdrawing US dollars directly. Binance says in an updated terms of service that they will have to convert existing crypto on the platform to “stablecoin or other digital assets, which can subsequently be withdrawn.”

Binance stops accepting deposits in Russian rubles.

November 21, 2023:

The US DOJ seeks US$4 billion (AU$61. billion) from Binance as part of a proposed settlement for a years-long probe into the exchange. According to Bloomberg, as part of negotiations, CZ could potentially face charges related to money-laundering, bank fraud, and sanctions violations.

US authorities announce that it has reached a historic settlement with Binance for money-laundering and sanctions laws.

Binance CEO CZ steps down. He is replaced by Richard Teng, former Global Head of Regional Markets.

In the US Treasury Department’s settlement agreement with Binance and CZ, the crypto exchange will pay a US$3.4 billion (AU$5.2 billion penalty) to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and US$968 million (AU$1.48 billion) to Treasury’s Office Of Foreign Assets Control.

CZ, on the other hand, will pay US$50 million (AU$76 million).

US Treasury also reveals that Binance had 1,667,153 “apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs.”

November 22, 2023:

CZ is released from custody on a bond of US$175 million (AU$266 million). Around the same time, data shows that Binance recorded 24-hour customer withdrawals of US$1 billion (AU$1.52 billion).