Binance Admits It Engaged in Anti-Money Laundering, Unlicensed Money Transmitting, and Sanctions Violations in Largest Corporate Resolution to Include Criminal Charges for an Executive
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Madame Secretary.
Today is a watershed moment. The Department of Justice and its partners are holding accountable the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange and the CEO who ran it, for their criminal conduct.
Binance vaulted to the top of the crypto market in part through the scheme exposed today: by pursuing growth, market share, and profits at the expense of compliance with U.S. law.
Today’s charges and guilty pleas – combined with a more than $4 billion financial penalty – demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to corporate accountability. And they send an unmistakable message to crypto and defi companies: if you serve U.S. customers, you must obey U.S. law.
A corporate strategy that puts profits over compliance isn’t a path to riches. It’s a path to federal prosecution.
As detailed in the statement of facts, Changpeng Zhao was warned by his own compliance team that Binance lacked basic safeguards to prevent users from evading U.S. sanctions law.
He was warned of the “high risk” associated with some customers on their exchange. He was even warned that the CFO of another company had been arrested for sanctions violations and that the same thing could happen at Binance.
But rather than implement the basic anti-money laundering safeguards that his team recommended – safeguards required by U.S. law – Binance and its founder operated as though the rules didn’t apply, as though they were beyond our reach.
Crypto assets may be advertised as borderless in nature, but the Department of Justice will enforce U.S. law across and throughout crypto markets, even in their darkest corners.
Some say the key to success in the tech sector is to “move fast and break things.” Today’s actions show that if what you break is the law, there will be consequences.
Over five years, while building its business with U.S. customers, Binance enabled nearly $1 billion in illegal payments involving sanctioned countries and individuals. These actions put our collective security at risk.
Today, companies are increasingly operating on the front lines of the geopolitical and national security challenges that mark today’s global environment.
That’s why the Justice Department is focused on the intersection between corporate crime and national security. Today, corporate crime undermines not only our markets and investors but also our national security.
The laws we are enforcing today were designed to protect the security of our financial markets—and to protect our financial institutions from exploitation by terrorists and money launderers. Today’s actions show that those rules apply equally to traditional financial institutions and those powered by decentralized and cutting-edge technologies.
Today’s resolutions are the result of, and a credit to, the combined energy and expertise of prosecutors and law enforcement agents from across the government. In particular, I’d like to thank:
- Nicole Argentieri, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division;
- Matt Olsen, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and
- Tessa Gorman, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington.
They each lead teams who have worked tirelessly on this case.
The partnership between the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery experts and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control experts is a response to the growing convergence of white-collar and national security investigations, so we’re combining deep expertise from across the Department to combat new and growing threats.
Together with our partners, the Justice Department will hold accountable those who occupy the C-suite and the boardroom if they exploit technologies in violation of our laws. With that, I’ll turn it over to Chairman Behnam.