Just a month ago, the scent of a showdown was in the air when Gary Gensler, Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), expressed his distaste for Binance during an interrogation by Congress. Labeling the cryptocurrency exchange as a deceiver of customers and a circumventor of U.S. securities laws, Gensler signaled a storm brewing on the horizon.
Fast forward to today, Binance finds itself squarely in the SEC's sights. A formal lawsuit against Binance, its CEO, and associated parties has been filed, alleging severe breaches of federal securities laws. According to the SEC, these supposed violations jeopardized investors' assets and enabled the accused to unlawfully accumulate profits totaling billions.
Before diving into the lawsuit, it's important to understand how things got here...
There are some vital details that set the stage for the ensuing legal battle. This is not your regular SEC operation.
- SEC Chairman Gary Gensler is one of the most contentious leaders to date.
His leadership style significantly deviates from his predecessors, instigating a tense atmosphere between the SEC and regulated firms.
Formerly, the SEC used to handle compliance issues in a manner that fostered dialogue between enterprises and regulators. However, attempts to uphold this tradition of open communication under Gensler's leadership were met with silence. A notable point of concern is Gensler's often refusal to respond to inquiries, even when he is the sole authority capable of answering.
His silence speaks volumes when firms, after being overlooked, find themselves on the receiving end of an SEC lawsuit. "Leveraging enforcement actions to interpret law in a burgeoning industry is neither an effective nor equitable regulatory approach," argues a congressional representative.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler takes questions from Congress.
- Under Gensler has we have witnessed a large number of disgruntled employees leaving the SEC, and unhappy businesses leaving the country...
Gensler's management style has been controversial, eliciting criticism from within the SEC. Commissioner Hester Pierce described his leadership as 'lethargic,' critiquing the reliance on enforcement actions for legislative interpretation in an emerging industry as inefficient and unfair.
An odd and concerning illustration of the SEC's operations is its interaction with Coinbase.
Despite obtaining SEC approval and listing on the stock exchange following detailed disclosure of operations, Coinbase, without any operational changes, received a Wells Notice stating an impending lawsuit for potential violations.
Essentially, after SEC approval and subsequent investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, the same stock is now at risk due to SEC's targeted legal action despite no changes in business operations.
Criticized for Missing in Action When the SEC was Actually Needed - FTX Debacle Occurred on Gensler's Watch.
While firms seeking guidance were ignored, then slapped with lawsuits for violating undisclosed rules, FTX, under Gensler's supervision, ascended to be the #2 global exchange free of any interference. Ironically, the Binance CEO, now facing a lawsuit, exposed FTX's underlying fraud.
The SEC was conspicuous by its absence as users traded assets that were non-existent or misplaced due to FTX's deficient and fraudulent accounting.
These are not criminal charges.
The lawsuit seeks financial penalties for regulation violations. No criminal incarceration can result from the legal actions taken thus far.
A recurring name you will see in the charges 'BAM Trading'.
Listed as the 'owner' of Binance.us, BAM Trading was purportedly created to comply with U.S. laws. However, the SEC alleges that Binance.com CEO CZ controls both Binance.com and Binance.us, implying that BAM Trading is merely a facade for Binance's U.S. operations.
Armed with this background, let's delve into the lawsuit:
The SEC accuses Binance and BAM Trading of deceptive practices, enticing U.S. investors into buying, selling, and trading crypto assets through their unregistered online platforms, Binance.com and Binance.US. The defendants are alleged to have offered unauthorized crypto asset securities, imperiling investor wealth.
The charges extend to Binance and BAM Trading's operations, helmed by Zhao Changpeng, for providing securities market services—trading, brokering, and clearing—on their platforms without SEC authorization.
Moreover, the lawsuit alleges that Binance and BAM Trading partook in illegal, unregistered offers and sales of crypto asset securities, concealing crucial investment-related information.
Another accusation centers on BAM Trading and BAM Management's deceitful promises about the Binance.US Platform's controls, while allegedly accumulating about $200 million from private investors and billions in trading volume.
The lawsuit goes on to accuse Binance of an underground operation, alleging a multi-step strategy since 2018 to evade U.S. laws. The scheme involved the establishment of BAM entities in the U.S. under Zhao and Binance's control, disguised as independent operators of the Binance.US Platform.
Furthermore, the defendants are accused of circumventing U.S. regulatory oversight while providing securities-related services to U.S. clients. The defendants also reportedly failed to implement vital trading surveillance or manipulative trading controls, leading to 'wash trading' and self-dealing on the Binance.US Platform.
The lawsuit portrays Binance and BAM Trading as willful evaders of key disclosure requirements and other investor and market protections, thereby violating the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
Binance Vows to Stand Its Ground...
As this report was in preparation, both Binance.com and Binance.US responded.
Binance.US's response emphasized that "the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously." The full statement is available on their Twitter account.
Binance.com denounced the SEC's actions on their website, asserting the SEC has "zero justification" to suggest customer assets were at risk. They stated that instead of engaging in a productive dialogue about the platform's safety and security, the SEC preferred to "make headlines."
CEO and Founder CZ took to Twitter, sarcastically polling "Who protects you more?" between the SEC and Binance—with Binance commanding an 85% lead. He also retweeted the SEC Chairman's lawsuit announcement, provocatively asking "Wonder if he ever reads the comments under his post, from the consumers he is suppose to protect?"
-------Author: Mark PippenLondon News Desk | Breaking Crypto News
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