Several high-ranking officials have left the crypto exchange Binance following CEO Changpeng CZ Zhao’s response to an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Fortune.
The exodus includes chief strategy officer Patrick Hillmann, general counsel Han Ng and SVP of compliance Steven Christie. The departure of the three executives followed the recent exit of Matthew Price, a former IRS agent that Binance had hired in 2021 to oversee global investigations and intelligence.
Hillmann and Christie both confirmed their departures on Twitter, with the former saying that he was leaving “on good terms,” while Christie cited personal reasons for his exit. Meanwhile, Ng’s position will be replaced by Eleanor Hughes, said a person familiar with the matter.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) recently filed lawsuits against Binance, accusing the exchange of securities law violations and other misconducts. Simultaneously, investigations by regulators in Europe, Australia and other regions have intensified. Analysts predict it will affect the company’s global operations.
Binance employs approximately 600 individuals in the United States. However, during midyear performance reviews in June, some employees were asked if they would be willing to relocate. An internal source said those who declined the offer were reportedly let go.
Among the staff members who have left Binance in the U.S., Yibo Ling, the chief business officer, was mentioned by the same source.
Zhao has responded to speculation surrounding the recent departures of Binance’s executives.
“Yes, there is turnover (at every company), but the reasons dreamed up by the ‘news’ are completely wrong,” he said on social media.
Zhao also said the company continues to hire and build despite the challenges it faces. He explained that Binance had promoted a new general counsel a month ago, and Chief Compliance Officer Noah Perlman remains with the company.
Analysts say the departure of these executives highlights the urgency of addressing the ongoing investigations and reinforcing compliance efforts.
The regulatory pressure has already taken its toll on Binance’s business. Its U.S. division has faced regulatory restrictions, leading to the discontinuation of trading in U.S. dollars. The exchange lost a major European banking partner following the SEC lawsuit. Since May, Binance has also discontinued its services in Canada due to regulatory difficulties.
According to a report by CCData, Binance’s share of non-derivatives trading volume declined for the fourth consecutive month, dropping by 1.4 percent to 42 percent in June — its lowest since August 2022. Binance’s native token, BNB, has dropped more than 25 percent over the past day, per recent data from CoinMarketCap.
The DoJ’s investigation into Binance is reportedly focused on allegations of deception attempts, money laundering and violations of sanctions. Experts predict that the Justice Department may soon file a criminal complaint against Binance and Zhao.
Despite rumors of succession planning within the company, Zhao has shown no indication of stepping aside. The Binance founder has refuted negative reports surrounding the exchange, saying they create “FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
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