Binance could pay more than $4 billion if it agrees to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) proposal for resolving a criminal probe into the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.
But discussions between Binance and the DOJ have left open the possibility that the exchange’s founder, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao could still face criminal charges, Bloomberg reported.
The DOJ has been investigating Binance for money laundering, bank fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions. A $4 billion penalty would rank among the largest ever in the crypto industry. But the proposal could also enable Binance to continue operations and avoid a collapse that would likely ripple through the industry – a concern among U.S. officials.
An announcement could occur before Dec. 1, although the negotiations are fluid, Bloomberg reported citing its sources. Zhao lives in the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S., Bloomberg reported.
Binance’s BNB token jumped more than 8% in the hour following the news to trade above $259. BNB was more recently changing hands a little over $256, up nearly 4% over the past 24 hours.
Neither Binance nor the DOJ responded to an Unchained request for comment at the time of publication.
Binance has been facing legal and regulatory scrutiny on multiple fronts. In June, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Binance, Zhao and Binance.US in June for allegedly listing unregistered securities as cryptocurrencies for trading and investment by U.S. investors. And in March, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sued Binance and Zhao, accusing them of knowingly offering unregistered crypto derivatives products in violation of federal law.
Binance has pushed back vigorously against both those filings, asking courts in September and October to dismiss the SEC and CFTC suits.
In a so-called deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), the DOJ would file criminal charges but not push forward with the prosecution as long as Binance fulfills certain obligations, including the payment of a stiff financial penalty and acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Binance would also have to remain in compliance with the agreement.
But in a posting on X (formerly Twitter), former SEC official John Reed Stark cast doubt on Binance’s ability to follow through on this type of settlement, which he termed “unprecedented on multiple levels.”
“The stark reality is that neither Binance nor any other mega-crypto firm has ever been party to a U.S Justice Department deferred prosecution agreement, which will likely be tantamount to undergoing a 24-7, 365 days a year financial colonoscopy – and paying millions of dollars for the privilege,” he wrote. “Moreover, unless this is a global settlement with all law enforcement and regulators, Binance also faces enormous potential collateral consequences after signing any form of DPA.”
Why It's Hard to Believe That Binance Will (or Can) Agree to a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with US DOJ (Though I Guess Anything is Possible in the Cryptoverse).
Apparently, per a team of highly respected Bloomberg investigative journalists, the U.S. Justice Department is… pic.twitter.com/2SadwouuT8
— John Reed Stark (@JohnReedStark) November 20, 2023