Dec 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Binance.US goes big on D.C. lobbying

Illustration of the Binance logo on a compass.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crypto exchange Binance.US is beefing up its D.C. lobbying operation as erstwhile competitor FTX comes under withering regulatory and criminal scrutiny, Axios has learned.

Between the lines: Palo Alto-based Binance.US is legally independent from Binance, the Caymans-based crypto giant. The U.S. firm licenses Binance's technology and is chaired and partially owned by its CEO, Changpeng Zhao.

What's happening: Binance.US has hired three D.C. firms to expand its PR and government relations efforts:

  • Former senior George W. Bush White House official Kirk Blalock will lead a lobbying team at Fierce Government Relations.
  • FS Vector partner Peter Freeman, a former senior aide to ex-Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), will also lead a lobbying effort for the company.
  • Binance.US is bringing on the Bullpen Strategy Group to work on its policy communications efforts.

Binance.US previously hired B.J. Kang, a veteran FBI financial crimes investigator, to lead a new "investigations unit."

  • Its general counsel is a former attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The big picture: Its recent hires come as U.S. authorities step up pressure on the industry.

  • Binance.US was reportedly under SEC scrutiny this year over its ties to a pair of trading firms operating on its exchange.
  • In news that shook the crypto world this week, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was indicted on eight federal criminal charges.
  • The Justice Department is also said to be eyeing charges against Binance and Zhao.

What they're saying: “Binance.US is strengthening and expanding our Washington team to center the digital assets policy agenda on our customers’ interests," the company told Axios in a statement on its new K Street hires.

  • "We are looking forward to seeing our team grow and continuing to elevate the new economy and the overall digital asset exchange industry.”

Between the lines: The company is filling a gap left by Binance's exit from the U.S. market in 2019, and it stresses its independence from its eponymous affiliate.

  • The U.S. company holds itself out as a compliance-focused player in the crypto space, saying it "was established to serve U.S. consumers and adhere to U.S. regulations," the company says.
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