The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has charged Binance and its CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ) with violating trading and derivatives regulations.
In a lawsuit filed on Monday, the CFTC alleged that Binance unlawfully operated a derivatives trading exchange in the U.S. and solicited orders from customers in the country.
Despite publicly stating its intent to restrict U.S. customers, Binance has “taken a calculated approach” to increase its presence instead, stated the complaint. As part of this effort, the CFTC alleged that Binance aided U.S.-based users in circumventing its compliance controls by encouraging them to use Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
The complaint names Samuel Lim, the crypto exchange’s former chief of compliance, as the person who instructed employees to advise U.S. customers about workarounds, under the direction of CZ.
“On the surface we cannot be seen to have US users but in reality we should get them through other creative means,” said Lim in an internal employee chat log documented in the complaint.
The list of charges against the world’s largest crypto exchange include failing to register as a crypto exchange, poorly supervising its business and failing to implement KYC and anti-money laundering processes.
The lawsuit also classified Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin as commodities, contrary to claims made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that considers all cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin to be securities.
At first, Binance’s CZ did not formally address the lawsuit, but did put out a somewhat cryptic tweet – the number 4 – which was likely a reference to an earlier tweet calling for his followers to “ignore FUD, fake news, attacks, etc.
However, unlike the previous media reports of investigations refuted by Binance, the 74-page CFTC complaint cannot be as easily dismissed.
CZ later published a blog responding to the CFTC’s allegations, labeling them as “unexpected and disappointing” after working with them for two years.
Binance saw at least $183 million worth of withdrawals from its platform over the last 24 hours. Bitcoin shed $1,000 from its price after the lawsuit was filed, falling to $26,684. At the time of writing, the leading digital asset was trading at $27,174.