The CEO of Binance, the largest global cryptocurrency exchange, plans to step down and plead guilty to violating US anti-money laundering requirements, in a deal that could preserve the company’s ability to continue operating.
Changpeng Zhao is scheduled to appear in federal court in Seattle on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 21, and enter his plea, according to court records unsealed Tuesday.
Prosecutors also filed a document alleging Binance, which Zhao owns, was involved in anti-money laundering and sanctions violations. Binance will also be liable and agree to pay $4.3 billion in damages, which includes settling civil allegations made by regulators, the people said.
A source with knowledge of the company’s succession plan tells Wired that Richard Teng, currently head of regional markets at Binance, is likely to take over. Teng was the Global Market CEO of Abu Dhabi, the financial director in the UAE. Teng is said to be a popular choice among the Binance staff.
Further details are expected to be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 21. The DOJ held a press conference at 3:00 pm EST and is expected to discuss the lawsuit further.
Binance launched in June 2017 and within 180 days became the world’s largest crypto exchange. It had over $11.6 billion in trading volume in the past 24 hours, 515% more than the $1.9 billion in trading volume from the second largest crypto exchange, Coinbase, according to CoinMarketCap data.
The DoJ filed charges against Binance over five months after the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused the exchange and Zhao of lying to regulators about its operations, filing 13 charges against federal defendants in the case. Zhao and Binance were said to be “intimately involved” in arranging business entity trading and providing crypto-related services to the Binance.US platform, which it claims is an independent exchange in an SEC filing.
In late March, the US Commodity Futures and Trading Commission also filed a lawsuit against Binance, Zhao and its Chief Compliance Officer Samuel Lim for violating key trading and derivatives regulations.
Binance made headlines this past year for a variety of reasons, including Zhao’s comments contributing to the downfall of FTX, which was once one of its top competitors. In April, Binance.US, its American sister company, scrapped its $1.3 billion deal to buy the assets of crypto broker Voyager Digital due to a “hostile regulatory climate.”
In August, Checkout.com cut ties with Binance over concerns about the crypto firm’s proposed issues with anti-money laundering, sanctions and regulatory compliance. At the time, a Binance spokesperson said it did not agree with “Checkout’s proposed termination basis and is considering options for legal action”.