Binance sees a chance to take over as the new face of cryptocurrency in the FTX Collapse

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, contacted Changpeng Zhao to plead for assistance in early November, just days before the exchange declared bankruptcy. At first, Mr. Zhao, the creator of Binance, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, agreed to give a loan and purchase FTX in order to save it. Mr. Zhao later changed his mind after looking over FTX’s financial records, and Mr. Bankman-Fried was left with little choice except to declare his business bankrupt. Following the filing of criminal allegations against him by American prosecutors, Mr. Bankman-Fried was detained on Monday in the Bahamas.

The founders of the two largest cryptocurrency exchanges have a difficult relationship that occasionally involves them arguing in public and making fun of each other on Twitter. Mr. Zhao’s actions were the conclusion of that relationship. Their divergent perspectives on the cryptocurrency industry, including whether and how it should be controlled, held considerable sway as the quick expansion of their businesses made both of them into paper millionaires, particularly as governments around the world prepared to retaliate. With FTX’s demise, Binance now has a chance to openly show its legitimacy with investors and regulators. Mr. Zhao, often known as CZ in the cryptocurrency community, recently tweeted soothing messages to his eight million followers, positioning himself as the industry’s rescuer. Bitcoin is still alive. On November 20, he wrote, “We are still here. Mr. Zhao also couldn’t help but poke fun at his opponent.

This month, he wrote on Twitter, “You don’t have to be a genius to recognize something don’t smell good at FTX. They outspent us 100 to 1 on marketing and “partnerships,” extravagant parties in the Bahamas, international travel, and mansions for all of their top personnel (and his parents), while being one-tenth the size of us. Binance recently stated it has acquired a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, enabling it to join the Japanese market “as a regulated organization,” in an effort to dispel the perception that it has circumvented laws. Binance has hired a number of American CEOs in an effort to increase its credibility in the United States. US, a Palo Alto, California-based division of it. Additionally, Mr. Zhao seems to be laying the groundwork for a stronger lobbying presence: Binance launched just 10 days after FTX failed. An PAC was established by the US. Additionally, it has increased marketing: Cristiano Ronaldo, a soccer player from Portugal, was seen posing in a Binance shirt in a recent advertising.

It will be difficult to position Binance as the new, trustworthy face of cryptocurrency. The exchange has been beset by accusations of impropriety ever since it was founded in 2017. Customers have sued Binance for failing to handle highly sensitive personal data and for breaking securities laws. According to news sources and a person with knowledge of the situation, it is also being looked into by the Department of Justice and American regulators as part of a larger inquiry into the cryptocurrency industry’s compliance with international anti-money laundering rules. (FTX is also under investigation for possible money laundering.) In an interview with The New York Times in November 2021, Mr. Zhao stated that after Binance instituted a global “know-your-customer” approach, “regulators were quite thrilled.” No regulators requested that we do so; rather, we took the initiative to demonstrate our commitment to full regulatory compliance, he added.

In the 2021 interview with The Times, Mr. Zhao stated, “We hired a significant number of top ex-regulators.” Recent hiring by Mr. Zhao at Binance also appear to be courtships of international authorities. He selected Tigran Gambaryan, a former federal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service of the United States Department of the Treasury, to serve as Binance’s worldwide head of intelligence and investigations last year. Additionally, Binance hired two former employees of the Financial Conduct Authority, a U.K. regulator, two former employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Treasury, and a former chief executive of the United Arab Emirates’ financial watchdog.