Binance CEO "CZ" steps down, pleads guilty to U.S. money laundering violations
Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, founder and CEO crypto exchange Binance, agreed to step down and plead guilty as part of a $4.3 billion settlement agreement involving U.S. criminal and civil charges against him and his company.
Why it matters: Binance is the world's largest crypto exchange, and CZ the most powerful player in the industry — even before SBF.
Driving the news: CZ agreed to plead guilty in a Seattle federal court to money laundering violations.
- The settled complaint alleges that CZ and Binance prioritized "growth over compliance," facilitating billions of dollars of crypto transactions on behalf of customers without appropriate Know-Your-Customer (KYC) procedures.
What they're saying: "Binance turned a blind eye to its legal obligations in the pursuit of profit," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday in a joint press conference with the DOJ announcing the settlement.
- "Its willful failures allowed money to flow to terrorists, cybercriminals, and child abusers through its platform," she said.
- U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DoJ's felony complaint and the various civil enforcement actions against the company "represents the whole of government approach to combat corporate crime."
Details: CZ agreed to pay $50 million in fines that will be credited to the CFTC, related to the resolution of that suit.
- He is also prohibited from operating or managing the business for 3 years.
- Binance will also plead guilty to a criminal charge related to knowingly violating the Bank Secrecy Act, and will pay more than $4.3 billion as part of the settlement agreement — including the largest penalty in U.S. Treasury history.
The other side: "These resolutions acknowledge our company's responsibility for historical, criminal compliance violations, and allow our company to turn the page on a challenging yet transformative chapter of learning and growth," Binance said in a statement.
- "We are confident that Binance will emerge as a stronger company as we lay the foundation for the next 50 years."
Of note: The company named Richard Teng, its now-former Global Head of Regional Markets, as its new CEO, effective immediately.
Details: The deal puts an end to a years-long investigation into Binance, which in recent months has laid off employees and seen a rash of executive departures.
Between the lines: Binance will pay a $3.4 billion civil monetary penalty to FinCEN, the financial crimes bureau within the Treasury department. That agreement comes with a 5-year monitorship and various agreements to bone up compliance and ensure the company's complete exit from the U.S.
- It will also pay a $968 million fine to OFAC, the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The intrigue: The SEC's prior suit against Binance still stands.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.