Binance founder and CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is stepping down from his role at the crypto company and pleading guilty against charges put forth by the U.S. Department of Justice. Binance will also pay $4.3 billion as part of the settlement. Richard Teng, previously Binance’s Global Head of Regional Markets, will step in as CEO.
But despite the unexpected shake-up, some industry figures don’t see this news as being necessarily bad for crypto. Some, like Coinbase Chief Legal Officer Paul Grewal, see Binance’s settlement as a chance to reiterate a call for proactive regulation and clear laws for crypto.
“Crypto isn’t going anywhere,” Grewal wrote Tuesday in response to the Binance upheaval. “But to create a thriving crypto economy in the U.S., we need clear, sensible regulation so American consumers have access to secure domestic crypto services.”
“U.S. regulation by enforcement-only approach has only increased consumer risk and driven customers and innovation out of the country,” Grewal added. “Legislation is essential for safeguarding consumers and fostering a responsible marketplace in America.”
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong shared a similar sentiment, reiterating that the U.S.-based exchange will continue to remain in the country.
“Today's news reinforces that doing it the hard way was the right decision. We now have an opportunity to start a new chapter for this industry,” Armstrong said. “We took a lot of arrows operating here in the U.S. due to the lack of regulatory clarity, and my hope is that today's news serves as a catalyst to finally achieve that.”
Since the founding of Coinbase back in 2012 we have taken a long-term view. I knew we needed to embrace compliance to become a generational company that stood the test of time. We got the licenses, hired the compliance and legal teams, and made it clear our brand was about trust…
— Brian Armstrong 🛡️ (@brian_armstrong) November 21, 2023
Others were less optimistic. Twitter/X employee Chris Bakke alleged that Binance is just one of many crypto companies “run by frauds,” also naming collapsed firms like FTX, BlockFi, Terra, Celsius, Voyager, and others in response to the Binance news.
But many crypto enthusiasts believe Binance’s shakeup is a net positive for the industry.
“Binance did great, and it’s unclear what CZ’s outcome will be. His strategy seems more W than L right now,” argued ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees on Tuesday.
Crypto lawyer Carlo D’Angelo suggested that CZ’s departure from Binance actually benefits the broader crypto industry.
“CZ falling on the sword—agreeing to plead guilty and pay a fine to keep Binance global operations going—is a good thing for crypto,” D’Angelo said.
Deaton Law Managing Partner John Deaton suggested, however, that CZ didn’t have much of a choice but to plead guilty.
“Whatever you think of CZ, he had no real choice,” Deaton claimed. “Being able to keep his majority stake in Binance, plead out to a money laundering charge, and likely get 2-5 years of probation? There’s not a criminal defense attorney alive going to say, ‘Nah, you should roll the dice.’”
Messari Crypto founder and CEO Ryan Selkis also weighed in on the Binance news, calling it a “derisking” for the exchange by settling with the DOJ.
“Binance derisking is one of the biggest catalysts we could have in crypto,” Selkis argued. “Crypto is a ‘real’ industry post-$4 billion settlement.”
Selkis further theorized that crypto markets could accelerate, see ETFs approved, and crypto regulation passed next year.
A day before the news broke, Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz argued that Binance reaching a settlement with regulators “would be super bullish.”
“I personally am hoping for a settlement and for the industry to move forward,” Novogratz said Monday.
While many crypto executives and attorneys don’t believe Binance’s settlement is bad for crypto, it’s currently unclear how Binance’s BNB token will fare long-term—and how other U.S. regulatory action against exchanges like Kraken will play out.
Edited by Andrew Hayward