Binance CEO says willing to step down amid crypto crackdown

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, speaks during a TV interview in Tokyo, Japan on Thursday, January 11, 2018.

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The head of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance says he is ready to step down from his role as the company seeks to become a regulated financial institution.

At a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said he had no immediate plans to leave his role, but the company had a succession plan in place.

“We will be a fully regulated financial institution going forward,” Zhao told reporters, adding that during this turnaround he would be “very open” to finding a replacement CEO with more regulatory experience.

Binance is the world’s largest digital currency exchange by trading volume. However, it has recently undergone intense regulatory scrutiny as authorities around the world try to crack down on the fast-growing crypto industry.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority banned Binance’s UK entity from any regulated activity. Binance was one of many crypto firms to withdraw their applications for the UK’s temporary licensing regime for failing to meet anti-money laundering requirements, the FCA said.

Regulators in Japan, Canada and Italy have also taken action against the company, warning that it is not authorized to operate in the countries.

Planning for the future

Binance is aiming to have a number of regional headquarters around the world and will apply for licenses wherever they are available, Zhao said. He previously said that Binance has no official headquarters.

Zhao insisted that there were no immediate plans for his successor, adding that Binance “is keeping our options open”.

“I am honored to continue running Binance as a regulated financial institution until we find someone who does a better job,” he said.

In May, Bloomberg reported that Binance was facing a state investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service.

Binance said it couldn’t specifically comment on ongoing discussions with regulators, either in the US or elsewhere.

On Monday, the company announced it was reducing the maximum leverage – or leverage – that users can use to trade futures contracts amid concerns that such high-risk bets are causing customers heavy losses.

Earlier this month, Binance said it would no longer offer “stock tokens,” digital digital versions of stocks like Tesla, Apple and Coinbase, in an attempt to shift its commercial focus to other products. The German regulators had warned that the instruments may have violated securities laws.

This year has been a wild one for crypto. Bitcoin, the largest digital coin in the world, hit an all-time high of nearly $ 65,000 at times. However, it has shrunk a lot since then.

The cryptocurrency briefly surged above $ 40,000 for the first time in nearly six weeks after Amazon announced it was adding a digital currency and blockchain experts to its payments team.

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