When A US Regulator Slams Crypto: A Week in Review

Earlier this week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought simultaneous lawsuits against two leading cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance and Coinbase. With their influence, both exchanges decided to fight the legal battle.

Lawsuits against Two Exchanges

The US securities regulator’s on-and-off investigations against big crypto players were known for a while. On Monday, it went public with the lawsuit against Binance, its two affiliated entities, and the Founder/CEO, Changpeng Zhao. The 13 charges against the defendants include operating illegal trading platforms, offering unregistered crypto asset securities, and commingling customers’ funds.

A court filing revealed that the US securities market regulator started investigating Binance in 2020.

When the crypto industry was still reeling from the actions against Binance, the SEC announced another lawsuit on Tuesday against America-listed crypto exchange Coinbase. The charges against this exchange include operating an illegal trading platform that offered unregistered crypto asset securities — the SEC also accused Coinbase of offering a staking-as-a-service program without authorization.

Consecutive Court Motions

Following the lawsuit, the SEC also filed multiple motions in court against Binance – the regulator is seeking permission to freeze the assets of Binance.US. According to the court filing, Binance moved $12 billion in customer funds to entities controlled by CEO Zhao.

The allegations against Binance and Zhao are grave. Though the US operations of Binance were independent on paper, the lawsuit included statements of executives who admitted that Zhao and Binance.com ultimately controlled the executive decisions at Binance.US.

BAM Trading officially operates Binance.US without Zhao in any of its executive roles. However, BAM Trading employees referred to the controls of Zhao and Binance on the company as “shackles” that prevented them from understanding and freely operating the US platform. A former CEO of BAM Trading even told Binance’s CFO that her “entire team feels like [it had] been duped into being a puppet.”

Binance’s Actions

Experts believe that the SEC lawsuit might not damage the global dominance of Binance but would break Binance.US. Indeed, the US affiliate has already made some harsh operational decisions.

Changpeng Zhao
Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance. Source: LinkedIn

Binance.US indefinitely suspended its over-the-counter (OTC) operations and also removed ten crypto pairs listed against BTC and BUSD. The SEC’s complaint alleged BNB and BUSD to be unregistered securities and also labeled ten other cryptocurrencies listed on the exchange in this category.

The operational changes of Binance.US continued today (Friday); it announced the suspension of USD deposits and warned that its payment partners would also terminate withdrawal support by June 13. The exchange is now going all-crypto and indirectly asked users to withdraw USD funds immediately.

The SEC has taken to using extremely aggressive and intimidating tactics in its pursuit of an ideological campaign against the American digital asset industry. https://t.co/AZwoBOgsqS and our business partners have not been spared in the use of these tactics, which has created… pic.twitter.com/rlIe6swIoY

— Binance.US 🇺🇸 (@BinanceUS) June 9, 2023

Political Side Is Heating Up

The lawmakers are now also taking an interest in the alleged illegal operations of Binance in the US. Two senate democrats, Elizabeth Warren, and Chris Van Hollen, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking a Department of Justice investigation into the exchange. They alleged that Binance and its US affiliate might have lied to Congress about business practices.

“This is a serious matter,” the letter stated. “While Mr. Zhao has claimed that Binance.US is a ‘fully independent entity’, in reality, he controls the company as a ‘de facto subsidiary’ of Binance.”

What Is Happening with Coinbase?

Coinbase, which is also facing an SEC lawsuit, is a public company. Its shares took a heavy dent since SEC sued the company. In the last five trading sessions, the Nasdaq-listed company (Nasdaq: COIN) lost more than 15.6 percent of its value but recovered from the button it hit on Tuesday.

Coinbase share price

Unlike Binance, Coinbase is not accused of any customer fund misappropriation or shady business practices. The SEC alleged that it functions as an exchange, brokerage, and clearing agency, which are separate under US laws, without registering to engage in these activities.

The SEC Chair, Garry Gensler, in a speech yesterday (Thursday) at the Piper Sandler Global Exchange & Fintech Conference, stressed that existing US securities rules applied to crypto platforms and they must separate “the exchange, broker-dealer, and clearing functions.”

Gensler thinks separating the three functions will “help mitigate the conflicts that can arise with the commingling of such services.”

“With wide-ranging noncompliance, frankly, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen many problems in these markets. We’ve seen this story before. It’s reminiscent of what we had in the 1920s before the federal securities laws were put in place. Hucksters. Fraudsters. Scam artists. Ponzi schemes,” he added.

JUST IN: SEC Chair Gary Gensler says crypto is all “hucksters, fraudsters, scam artists.” pic.twitter.com/1xRWUMzbel

— Milk Road (@MilkRoadDaily) June 8, 2023

However, Coinbase confirmed that it will not shutter its staking service, which, according to the regulatory, is illegal. Earlier, the SEC reached a settlement with Kraken that led to the exchange shutting its staking service.

The Tackle of Binance and Coinbase

Both Binance and Coinbase are now defending themselves publicly and trying to get the public discourse in their favor. The US courts will decide the fate of the lawsuits, but the exchanges need public trust in their business to operate smoothly.

In an official response to the SEC lawsuit, Binance said that the allegations concerning users’ assets on its US trading platform are at risk and “simply wrong,” adding that: “there is zero justification for the [SEC] Staff’s action in light of ample time the Staff had to conduct their investigation.”

brian armstrong
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase

The exchange also alleged that the SEC abandoned efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to resolve the investigations and rushed “to claim jurisdictional ground from other regulators” rather than seek to serve the interest of investors.

Coinbase CEO also responded to the SEC allegations with a tweet, stating the team is “confident in our facts and the law.” He also highlighted that the accusations against Coinbase differ from Binance, though he only mentioned “others out there” without naming Binance.

Regarding the SEC complaint against us today, we’re proud to represent the industry in court to finally get some clarity around crypto rules.

Remember:
1. The SEC reviewed our business and allowed us to become a public company in 2021.
2. There is no path to “come in and…

— Brian Armstrong 🛡️ (@brian_armstrong) June 6, 2023

The lawsuits came after Binance.US and Coinbase received Wells Notice from the SEC.

Gensler Is the Target

Both Binance and Coinbase are now directly attacking SEC Chair Gensler, who believes most cryptocurrencies can be categorized as securities. His stance on crypto dramatically changed over the years.

The lawyers of Binance sent a letter to the SEC, revealing that Gensler “offered to serve as an advisor” to the crypto exchange and want him to recuse from the legal case.

“Mr. Gensler should have been recused from any consideration in this matter based on this history and the prospect that Mr. Gensler may be a material fact witness,” the letter added. “To date, the Staff has never confirmed whether Mr. Gensler has recused himself, and if he has not, the Commission’s explanation for why not.”

While speaking at a conference, Coinbae CEO also called Gensler an “outlier” and revealed that the exchange approached the SEC for registration but received an “icy reception” from the Commission’s Chair at the first meeting.

Insider Trading?

Binance is a private company, but Coinbase is public. A day before the SEC brought the lawsuit against Coinbase, its CEO sold a significant amount of his shares in the company, a regulatory filing revealed.

Armstrong sold 29,730 shares of the company on June 5 before Coinbase shares plummeted with an initial dip of 20 percent. However, the transactions look planned, as Armstrong has been selling Coinbase shares regularly since last November. He submitted a 10b5-1 plan last August, notifying the regulator time and size of the transactions in advance.

Coinbase executives continue dumping millions of dollars of Coinbase stock.

Nothing inspires more confidence in your company than dumping millions of dollars in stock as your company is being sued for selling unregistered securities.

Maybe employee wash traded shitcoins and… pic.twitter.com/999CcpHJvb

— Bitfinex’ed 🔥🐧 Κασσάνδρα 🏺 (@Bitfinexed) June 8, 2023

Earlier this week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought simultaneous lawsuits against two leading cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance and Coinbase. With their influence, both exchanges decided to fight the legal battle.

Lawsuits against Two Exchanges

The US securities regulator’s on-and-off investigations against big crypto players were known for a while. On Monday, it went public with the lawsuit against Binance, its two affiliated entities, and the Founder/CEO, Changpeng Zhao. The 13 charges against the defendants include operating illegal trading platforms, offering unregistered crypto asset securities, and commingling customers’ funds.

A court filing revealed that the US securities market regulator started investigating Binance in 2020.

When the crypto industry was still reeling from the actions against Binance, the SEC announced another lawsuit on Tuesday against America-listed crypto exchange Coinbase. The charges against this exchange include operating an illegal trading platform that offered unregistered crypto asset securities — the SEC also accused Coinbase of offering a staking-as-a-service program without authorization.

Consecutive Court Motions

Following the lawsuit, the SEC also filed multiple motions in court against Binance – the regulator is seeking permission to freeze the assets of Binance.US. According to the court filing, Binance moved $12 billion in customer funds to entities controlled by CEO Zhao.

The allegations against Binance and Zhao are grave. Though the US operations of Binance were independent on paper, the lawsuit included statements of executives who admitted that Zhao and Binance.com ultimately controlled the executive decisions at Binance.US.

BAM Trading officially operates Binance.US without Zhao in any of its executive roles. However, BAM Trading employees referred to the controls of Zhao and Binance on the company as “shackles” that prevented them from understanding and freely operating the US platform. A former CEO of BAM Trading even told Binance’s CFO that her “entire team feels like [it had] been duped into being a puppet.”

Binance’s Actions

Experts believe that the SEC lawsuit might not damage the global dominance of Binance but would break Binance.US. Indeed, the US affiliate has already made some harsh operational decisions.

Changpeng Zhao
Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance. Source: LinkedIn

Binance.US indefinitely suspended its over-the-counter (OTC) operations and also removed ten crypto pairs listed against BTC and BUSD. The SEC’s complaint alleged BNB and BUSD to be unregistered securities and also labeled ten other cryptocurrencies listed on the exchange in this category.

The operational changes of Binance.US continued today (Friday); it announced the suspension of USD deposits and warned that its payment partners would also terminate withdrawal support by June 13. The exchange is now going all-crypto and indirectly asked users to withdraw USD funds immediately.

The SEC has taken to using extremely aggressive and intimidating tactics in its pursuit of an ideological campaign against the American digital asset industry. https://t.co/AZwoBOgsqS and our business partners have not been spared in the use of these tactics, which has created… pic.twitter.com/rlIe6swIoY

— Binance.US 🇺🇸 (@BinanceUS) June 9, 2023

Political Side Is Heating Up

The lawmakers are now also taking an interest in the alleged illegal operations of Binance in the US. Two senate democrats, Elizabeth Warren, and Chris Van Hollen, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland seeking a Department of Justice investigation into the exchange. They alleged that Binance and its US affiliate might have lied to Congress about business practices.

“This is a serious matter,” the letter stated. “While Mr. Zhao has claimed that Binance.US is a ‘fully independent entity’, in reality, he controls the company as a ‘de facto subsidiary’ of Binance.”

What Is Happening with Coinbase?

Coinbase, which is also facing an SEC lawsuit, is a public company. Its shares took a heavy dent since SEC sued the company. In the last five trading sessions, the Nasdaq-listed company (Nasdaq: COIN) lost more than 15.6 percent of its value but recovered from the button it hit on Tuesday.

Coinbase share price

Unlike Binance, Coinbase is not accused of any customer fund misappropriation or shady business practices. The SEC alleged that it functions as an exchange, brokerage, and clearing agency, which are separate under US laws, without registering to engage in these activities.

The SEC Chair, Garry Gensler, in a speech yesterday (Thursday) at the Piper Sandler Global Exchange & Fintech Conference, stressed that existing US securities rules applied to crypto platforms and they must separate “the exchange, broker-dealer, and clearing functions.”

Gensler thinks separating the three functions will “help mitigate the conflicts that can arise with the commingling of such services.”

“With wide-ranging noncompliance, frankly, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen many problems in these markets. We’ve seen this story before. It’s reminiscent of what we had in the 1920s before the federal securities laws were put in place. Hucksters. Fraudsters. Scam artists. Ponzi schemes,” he added.

JUST IN: SEC Chair Gary Gensler says crypto is all “hucksters, fraudsters, scam artists.” pic.twitter.com/1xRWUMzbel

— Milk Road (@MilkRoadDaily) June 8, 2023

However, Coinbase confirmed that it will not shutter its staking service, which, according to the regulatory, is illegal. Earlier, the SEC reached a settlement with Kraken that led to the exchange shutting its staking service.

The Tackle of Binance and Coinbase

Both Binance and Coinbase are now defending themselves publicly and trying to get the public discourse in their favor. The US courts will decide the fate of the lawsuits, but the exchanges need public trust in their business to operate smoothly.

In an official response to the SEC lawsuit, Binance said that the allegations concerning users’ assets on its US trading platform are at risk and “simply wrong,” adding that: “there is zero justification for the [SEC] Staff’s action in light of ample time the Staff had to conduct their investigation.”

brian armstrong
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase

The exchange also alleged that the SEC abandoned efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to resolve the investigations and rushed “to claim jurisdictional ground from other regulators” rather than seek to serve the interest of investors.

Coinbase CEO also responded to the SEC allegations with a tweet, stating the team is “confident in our facts and the law.” He also highlighted that the accusations against Coinbase differ from Binance, though he only mentioned “others out there” without naming Binance.

Regarding the SEC complaint against us today, we’re proud to represent the industry in court to finally get some clarity around crypto rules.

Remember:
1. The SEC reviewed our business and allowed us to become a public company in 2021.
2. There is no path to “come in and…

— Brian Armstrong 🛡️ (@brian_armstrong) June 6, 2023

The lawsuits came after Binance.US and Coinbase received Wells Notice from the SEC.

Gensler Is the Target

Both Binance and Coinbase are now directly attacking SEC Chair Gensler, who believes most cryptocurrencies can be categorized as securities. His stance on crypto dramatically changed over the years.

The lawyers of Binance sent a letter to the SEC, revealing that Gensler “offered to serve as an advisor” to the crypto exchange and want him to recuse from the legal case.

“Mr. Gensler should have been recused from any consideration in this matter based on this history and the prospect that Mr. Gensler may be a material fact witness,” the letter added. “To date, the Staff has never confirmed whether Mr. Gensler has recused himself, and if he has not, the Commission’s explanation for why not.”

While speaking at a conference, Coinbae CEO also called Gensler an “outlier” and revealed that the exchange approached the SEC for registration but received an “icy reception” from the Commission’s Chair at the first meeting.

Insider Trading?

Binance is a private company, but Coinbase is public. A day before the SEC brought the lawsuit against Coinbase, its CEO sold a significant amount of his shares in the company, a regulatory filing revealed.

Armstrong sold 29,730 shares of the company on June 5 before Coinbase shares plummeted with an initial dip of 20 percent. However, the transactions look planned, as Armstrong has been selling Coinbase shares regularly since last November. He submitted a 10b5-1 plan last August, notifying the regulator time and size of the transactions in advance.

Coinbase executives continue dumping millions of dollars of Coinbase stock.

Nothing inspires more confidence in your company than dumping millions of dollars in stock as your company is being sued for selling unregistered securities.

Maybe employee wash traded shitcoins and… pic.twitter.com/999CcpHJvb

— Bitfinex’ed 🔥🐧 Κασσάνδρα 🏺 (@Bitfinexed) June 8, 2023

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