In a significant development for the American cryptocurrency market, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced “significant cryptocurrency enforcement actions” at a press conference held Tuesday afternoon.
This landmark event, featuring Attorney General Merrick Garland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Rostin Behnam, outlined a series of enforcement actions, including a major settlement with Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.
Binance’s Landmark $4.3 Billion Settlement
The spotlight of the conference was the announcement of a $4.3 billion settlement with Binance.
This agreement, a result of the DOJ’s long-standing investigation into the exchange, addresses breaches of anti-money laundering (AML) and sanctions regulations.
As part of the settlement, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) will step down, pleading guilty to infringing U.S. criminal anti-money laundering laws.
CZ told the court that he had never been to court or a criminal, that he was scared but wanted to resolve the issue, and that he had not taken advantage of his UAE citizenship (no extradition). The judge recognized his attitude and said that he had no obligation to come to the…
— Wu Blockchain (@WuBlockchain) November 22, 2023
The DOJ has scrutinized Binance for years, focusing on violations since as early as August 2017. CZ and other Binance executives knowingly failed to register as a money services business, wilfully violating the Bank Secrecy Act.
The settlement includes over $2.5 billion in forfeiture and around $1.8 billion in criminal fines. Additionally, Binance will appoint an independent compliance monitor for three years to enhance its AML and sanctions compliance programs.
Impact for Cryptocurrency Regulation And Other DOJ Actions
This enforcement action signals a new era of stringent regulatory oversight in the cryptocurrency sector.
Attorney General Garland emphasized the message that using technology to break the law categorizes one as a criminal, not a disruptor.
The DOJ’s actions reflect a firm stance on crypto exchanges operating in the U.S. without proper registration and compliance with AML laws.
In addition to the Binance settlement, the DOJ also seized $9 million of Tether from a scam operation and collaborated with Tether to freeze $225 million in USDT, linked to a human trafficking ring.
These actions demonstrate the DOJ’s broader commitment to combating cryptocurrency-related crimes.
Following the settlement, CZ acknowledged his mistakes and announced his decision to pass on leadership to Richard Teng, the former Global Head of Regional Markets at Binance.
He expressed his commitment to taking responsibility and ensuring the best for the Binance community.
The Bottom Line: The SEC’s Ongoing Case with Binance
Notably, no high-ranking official from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was present at the press conference.
The SEC, which recently filed a suit against Kraken for failing to register as an exchange and commingling customer funds, has yet to settle its case with Binance.
The next few months are going to be interesting #binance fined by the DOJ & CZ stepping down
SEC still coming after exchanges
Pending ETF decision#btc still at $36,500 after doing
+ 100% off the lows
Whatever happens next at least it will be entertaining
— cousin crypto (@cousincrypt0) November 22, 2023
The DOJ’s actions, particularly the landmark settlement with Binance, mark a pivotal moment in cryptocurrency regulation.
These enforcement measures underscore the U.S. government’s resolve to ensure compliance with financial laws and regulations, signalling a more regulated and scrutinized future for the crypto industry.