The world’s largest crypto exchange Binance was set on hiring Gary Gensler as an advisor before he assumed office at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to text messages and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Ella Zhang, Binance’s former head of ventures, and Harry Zhou, co-founder of Binance-backed OTC trading desk Koi Trading, met with Gensler in 2018.
After the meeting, Gensler reportedly denied a role as an advisor to the crypto exchange, but was “generous in sharing license strategies,” according to a text from Zhou.
This was during Gensler’s stint at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he even taught a course on blockchain and money. Gensler also interviewed Binance’s founder Changpeng Zhao for the course over video, following meeting him in Tokyo in 2019.
Binance’s motivation for hiring Gensler does not necessarily point to a hidden agenda, but the documents show the firm was reasonably concerned about the consequences of lawsuits from U.S. regulators.
A presentation shared in 2018, with a section titled “Insulate Binance from US Enforcement,” called for the establishment of a separated U.S.-based entity, which is how Binance.US was born. In another section of the presentation, executives emphasized the need for “major PR efforts” that would show how its US operation was willing to “exceed SEC expectations and serve as an industry resource for the SEC.”
A Binance spokesperson told the WSJ that the presentation was rejected and had never been implemented.
Separately, Binance-branded stablecoin BUSD’s market cap has been on a consistent decline since the SEC issued a Wells Notice to its issuer Paxos. Although Paxos believes it is having a “constructive discussion” with the regulator as per a Feb. 22 CoinDesk report, investors have redeemed over $7 billion from BUSD, taking its market cap below $9.5 billion for the first time since June 2021.