Binance.US Restricted in Florida and Alaska After Former CEO’s Guilty Plea

Binance.US Restricted in Florida and Alaska After Former CEO's Guilty Plea

Source: AdobeStock / Iryna Budanova

Troubled cryptocurrency exchange Binance.US continues to face pressure from regulators in the United States after regulators in Florida and Alaska told the crypto exchange that it can no longer serve its residents.

Florida and Alaska regulators have informed Binance.US that the cryptocurrency exchange is no longer allowed to serve residents of their states, as The Wall Street Journal reported on January 25.The Alaska Division of Banking and Securities reportedly denied the renewal of Binance.US’s license in January 2024. In addition, Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation issued an emergency suspension order against Binance.US’s money transmitter license. This suspension reportedly occurred a week after Binance’s founder and former CEO, Changpeng Zhao (CZ), pleaded guilty to violating U.S. anti-money laundering policies on November 21, 2023.

Last fall, Binance’s founder Changpeng Zhao pleaded guilty to charges of violating U.S. anti-money-laundering requirements, a felony. Regulators in both states said that Zhao’s guilty plea makes him unfit to control Binance.US, which caters to Americans who want to trade crypto. Zhao is a roughly 80% shareholder.

In a November 28 X (formerly Twitter) post, Binance.US reminded users the exchange was not a party to the $4.3 billion settlement between U.S. officials, Binance and CZ announced on November 21. However, Zhao agreed to step down as chair and “will no longer be involved” in the governance of Binance.US, transferring his voting rights through a proxy.

In December, a U.S. federal court accepted Zhao’s guilty plea to one count of Bank Secrecy Act violations. As part of the settlement, Zhao stepped down as Binance.US chair and transferred his voting rights, removing his influence on the firm’s governance.

Binance.US Continues Operations Amid Regulatory Scrutiny and Legal Challenges

Despite the U.S. government’s action against the global Binance exchange, its local business, Binance.US, continued to operate in the country. “We remain fully operational and are committed to continuing to serve our customers with the same products and services as we always have,” the U.S. exchange wrote on November 28.

Despite these challenges, Binance.US has maintained its operations, and regulators in Arkansas, Illinois, and South Dakota reportedly reached an agreement with the exchange in late December.

CZ, who stepped down as Binance.US chair following the guilty plea, has sought to pledge his $4.5 billion stake in Binance.US as security to travel to the United Arab Emirates. However, Judge Richard Jones denied his request and ordered the former Binance boss to stay in the United States until his February 23 sentencing date.

CZ is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2024, facing up to 18 months in prison. However, Zhao’s whereabouts within the country are unknown, and he has remained mostly inactive on X, having last posted on December 6, 2023.

Binance.US, while not a party to the settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, faces a lawsuit filed in June by the Securities and Exchange Commission against the crypto exchange Binance and CZ. The commission was reportedly investigating whether Binance.US had a backdoor to control user assets—similar to what happened at FTX.

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