Binance Holdings Ltd., the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, today agreed to pay the U.S. government $4.3 billion to settle charges for breaking sanctions and money transmitting laws.
At the same time, Binance Chief Executive Changpeng “CZ” Zhao plans to step down and plead guilty to criminal charges in a bid to allow the company to continue operating in the U.S. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Zhao plans to appear before a Seattle court this afternoon and enter a plea, according to court documents unsealed today.
Zhao also agreed to pay a criminal fine of $50 million, court records show, an amount that could be reduced based on separate civil penalties he has agreed to pay to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. He will plead guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act and causing a financial institution to violate the BSA.
According to the terms of the plea, Zhao will be prohibited from any involvement in the present or future in operating Binance for the next three years. Binance itself will have to appoint an independent compliance monitor for the next three years and report its own compliance efforts to the U.S. government along with the fines.
This is yet another crypto victory for the U.S. coming just weeks after the conviction of Sam Bankman-Fried, the co-founder and former CEO of now defunct FTX Trading Ltd., on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy charges in federal court.
Although this brings investigations into Binance to a close for the DOJ, it does not affect an ongoing lawsuit from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which sued Binance and Zhao in June alleging that the exchange securities laws. According to the SEC lawsuit, Zhao and Binance, alongside BAM Trading Services Inc., engaged in deceptive practices, failed to register as securities brokers and operated an unregistered clearing house.
This comes at a time when the U.S. continues to crack down on crypto operations, as the SEC also filed a lawsuit against the cryptocurrency exchange Kraken on Monday, accusing it of operating as a securities exchange without first registering with the regulator.