Binance’s Regulatory Storm

How Regulatory Scrutiny Impacted the World’s Largest Crypto Exchange

7 min readApr 24, 2024

Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, has faced one of its most challenging years in 2023 — date. It all started with the forced resignation and subsequent charges against its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, a move that sent shockwaves through the crypto community. This setback was compounded by a series of regulatory battles, from the United States to the Netherlands, the Philippines, Canada, and Nigeria. Binance.US was hit with a lawsuit, leading to further complications and increased scrutiny.

The company’s woes didn’t end there, as it struggled to navigate a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. In this article, we delve into the details of these tumultuous events, uncovering how they unfolded and what they mean for the future of Binance and the broader cryptocurrency industry.

The Fall of CZ: How Regulatory Pressure Crushed Binance’s Kingpin

Changpeng Zhao, widely known as CZ, was once the towering figure at the helm of Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world. Founded in 2017, Binance quickly became a behemoth, dominating the crypto space with a market share that left its rivals in the dust. Up until recently, Binance held nearly 60% of the market share for crypto spot trading, dwarfing other exchanges like OKX and Coinbase, which had only about 5% each. However, Binance’s reign is now under serious threat, as its CEO has resigned amid a flurry of criminal charges and regulatory scrutiny.

It all started with a multi-year investigation that culminated in the largest corporate resolution involving criminal charges for a top executive in the crypto industry. CZ, the once-charismatic leader of Binance, resigned as CEO and pleaded guilty to federal money laundering charges, agreeing to pay a record $4.3 billion to US authorities to settle the case. According to the Justice Department, Binance failed to implement proper anti-money laundering protocols, allowing bad actors to use the platform for illicit activities, including transactions related to child sex abuse, narcotics, and terrorist financing.

The extent of Binance’s negligence became apparent through court documents, which revealed that employees knew about the risks but failed to act. One compliance staffer even joked about it, suggesting the need for a banner that read: “Is washing drug money too hard these days? Come to Binance, we’ve got cake for you.”

The consequences for CZ could be severe. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, though his actual sentence will likely be much lower, and the DOJ is reportedly pushing for only 36 Months incarceration for CZ. Along with his resignation, he agreed to pay a $50 million criminal fine and a $150 million civil penalty. In his resignation post on X (formerly Twitter), CZ expressed remorse for his actions, stating, “I made mistakes, and I must take responsibility. This is best for our community, for Binance, and for myself. Binance is no longer a baby. It is time for me to let it walk and run.”

Despite his departure, the impact of CZ’s fall from grace is profound. Binance’s future as the leading crypto exchange is now uncertain, with the company’s market share dropping to around 40% amid these growing regulatory pressure. The journey ahead for Binance will be challenging, as it seeks to rebuild trust with users and regulators while navigating a complex and ever-evolving regulatory landscape.

Regulatory Challenges for Binance: A Global Overview

Aside it’s enigmatic CEO’s resignation, the past one year has been a tumultuous period for Binance, with regulatory hurdles cropping up across the globe. From facing investigations to being forced out of markets, the exchange giant has had its share of troubles. Here’s a detailed look at the challenges Binance has faced in various countries this year.

Binance Leaves the Netherlands After Failing to Obtain License

In June 2023, Binance announced its exit from the Netherlands after failing to secure a virtual asset service provider (VASP) license, indicating that it could not meet anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. This forced Dutch residents to withdraw their funds from the platform by July 17, while new users were no longer accepted.

In a statement, Binance expressed regret over the departure, advising users to withdraw their assets, as no further purchases, trades, or deposits would be allowed. This marked a significant blow to Binance’s European market presence, underscoring the regulatory hurdles it faced.

Binance Under Investigation in France for ‘Aggravated’ Money Laundering

In June 2023, the Paris public prosecutor’s office revealed that Binance’s French unit was under investigation for “aggravated” money laundering and the “illegal” provision of digital asset services. The allegations centered around Binance’s operations before receiving regulatory approval in May 2022 and involvement in money laundering activities. This investigation not only highlighted the regulatory scrutiny Binance faced in France but also raised concerns about its broader compliance with AML regulations.

Binance Faces Lawsuit in Canada for Selling Crypto Derivative Products Without Registration

In April 2024, Binance encountered legal trouble in Canada as it faced a class-action lawsuit for allegedly selling crypto derivative products without proper registration. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice allowed the lawsuit to proceed, with plaintiffs arguing that Binance violated securities laws by failing to register as required by the Ontario Securities Act and federal law.

Philippines SEC Orders Google and Apple to Remove Binance App from App Stores

In April 2024, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered Google and Apple to remove the Binance app from their respective app stores for users in the Philippines. The SEC argued that Binance was selling unregistered securities and acting as an unregistered broker, violating the country’s securities regulations. This move followed the blocking of access to Binance websites by the SEC and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), adding to the regulatory pressure the exchange faced in Asia.

Binance.US Cuts Two-Thirds of Staff Amid Revenue Drop After SEC Lawsuit

Following a lawsuit by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in June, Binance.US experienced a dramatic revenue drop, leading to a 75% decline in business and a subsequent layoff of over 200 employees. Christopher Blodgett, COO of Binance.US, revealed that the lawsuit caused around $1 billion in crypto and fiat assets to leave the platform, resulting in significant financial strain. The lawsuit’s impact extended beyond financial losses, contributing to a severe loss of trust among customers.

Binance’s Troubles in India: URLs Blocked for Operating Illegally

In December 2023, India’s Financial Intelligence Unit instructed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to block the URLs of nine crypto exchanges, including Binance. The order came after claims that these virtual asset service providers (VASPs) were “operating illegally” and failed to comply with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This move by India highlighted Binance’s growing regulatory challenges in Asia, as it struggled to align with the country’s evolving crypto regulations.

Binance CEO Denied Permission to Travel to UAE Despite Offer of Equity

In January 2024, a federal judge refused Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao’s request to travel to the United Arab Emirates for personal reasons, despite his offer to use equity worth $4.5 billion as security. The judge’s denial indicated the tight control US authorities were exerting over Zhao’s movements following his guilty plea to federal money laundering charges. This incident revealed the ongoing scrutiny Zhao faced as a result of his company’s regulatory issues.

Nigeria Summons Binance Over Alleged Terrorism Financing

In March 2024, the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Financial Crimes summoned Binance over allegations of terrorism financing and money laundering. The committee issued a seven-day ultimatum for Binance to appear before the committee, signaling the severity of the accusations. Binance’s refusal to comply with multiple summonses triggered concerns about its adherence to local financial laws. Furthermore, the escape of a Binance executive from Nigeria, allegedly using a smuggled passport, added to the company’s growing list of troubles.

Impact on the Crypto Community

Binance’s regulatory troubles in 2023 and early 2024 have had a significant impact on the broader cryptocurrency community, raising questions about the industry’s future and whether it can move beyond its turbulent beginnings.

In response to the regulatory scrutiny and fines, Binance released a statement, admitting to growing at an “extremely fast pace” and making “misguided decisions” along the way. This self-reflection aligns with the experiences of other crypto firms that rapidly expanded in a largely unregulated market, only to find themselves under intense scrutiny by federal authorities.

Despite the severity of the accusations against Binance, the initial market reaction was muted, with Bitcoin slipping just over 1% on the day the news broke — relatively minor in the context of the notoriously volatile crypto market. This subdued response may reflect a sense of relief among crypto investors and entrepreneurs, who are eager to see the industry move on from its tumultuous early years.

Yesha Yadav, a law professor at Vanderbilt University specializing in financial regulation, suggests that the real question is whether the crypto industry is maturing beyond its influential founders and evolving into a more regulated and stable market. This transformation will be crucial for the industry’s survival and growth in the coming months.




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