Regulatory concerns surrounding Binance.us and its owner, Changpeng Zhou (CZ), have reportedly culminated in investors backing out of a $100 million funding round.
The failed funding round also prompted Binance.us CEO Brian Brooks’ surprise decision to step down after serving as its executive for just three months.
Brooks, the former Acting Comptroller of the Currency and former chief legal officer to rival exchange, Coinbase, cited “strategic differences” while stepping aside. The funding round had been intended as the first step in Binance.us’s path toward an initial public offering (IPO).
According to New York Times, Brooks had initially courted potential investors including Ray Lane from venture capital firm GreatPoint, and an executive at Japanese holding company, SoftBank, under assurances that Binance.us would comply with all US regulatory guidelines.
However, the investors reportedly backed out due to concerns surrounding CZ’s 90% ownership stake in Binance’s U.S.-based exchange, alongside anxieties regarding an ongoing investigation from U.S. authorities that is reportedly scrutinizing CZ over money laundering and tax issues.
NYT also reports that a lack of clear separation between the operation of Binance and Binance.us sparked concern among the investors.
Brooks publicly announced his resignation via an August 7 tweet. A spokesperson for Binance.us stated that the company would continue to take steps toward their goal of completing an IPO in the United States.
An IPO from Binance.us would put the exchange on better footing to compete with Coinbase, which completed its own IPO on April 14th. CZ hoped the investment round would allow Binance.us to gain better footing with US regulators to enable the IPO to procee.
Despite the recent troubles, CZ still appears confident that Binance.us will be able to attract the investments they need and do an IPO. He told Bloomberg in an interview published Aug. 19 that there is still interest from “top-level” investors, adding:
“Binance.US also aims to IPO in the not too distant future […] It’s just a matter of time.”
Binance has been under regulatory pressure in a range of jurisdictions in recent months. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK demanded Binance to halt all regulated activities in the UK at the end of last June. As a result of the FCA’s demand, major banks including HSBC UK have cut credit purchases to Binance.
Binance halted operations in Ontario in June after the provincial government took a hard stance against cryptocurrency trading in general. Crypto exchanges Bybit and Kucoin also came under heavy fire from legislators in the Canadian province.
Further, Binance’s elected to remove support for the Korean won (KRW) and halt Korean language support services last week as South Korea prepares to tighten its crypto regulations.
On July 3, the Thailand SEC also issued a criminal complaint again Binance for illegally operating a digital asset business in the country. The SEC reportedly issued several warnings that were ignored by the exchange.