Changpeng Zhao (also known simply as “CZ”), the founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance, has agreed to step down from his position and will plead guilty to violating anti-money laundering requirements enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to numerous media reports.
Zhao is expected in a federal courtroom in Seattle on Tuesday to enter his plea, with Binance reportedly agreeing to pay $4.3 billion in fines. The news was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal. We’ve reached out to Binance for comment and will update this post if we hear back.
Zhao founded Binance in 2017 and has been among crypto’s most visible and outspoken kingpins, often using his large social media presence to express his views on digital currencies and other transformative technologies.
His company, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has been in the crosshairs of U.S. regulators for some time. It appears that Zhao’s guilty plea and agreement to pay significant fines will allow him to retain majority ownership of Binance, and for the company to continue operating. Zhao’s most likely successor is Richard Teng, the company’s head of regional markets outside the United States, according to Reuters.
Binance is, as of Tuesday afternoon, significantly larger than key competitors Coinbase Exchange and Kraken, with a 24-hour trading volume of more than $12 billion. Coinbase Exchange’s trading volume is less than $2 billion.
The U.S. government has been active elsewhere in the cryptoverse, too. On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges against Kraken alleging that it is operating as an unregistered securities exchange, clearing agency, and broker. The action against Kraken comes after the SEC likewise brought charges against both Binance and Coinbase in June.