Cryptocurrency exchange Binance can continue US operations as it battles SEC fraud charges

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Binance have reached an agreement in court that lets the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange continue to operate in the United States as it battles SEC fraud charges.

Under a consent order filed Saturday, the defendants in the June 5 lawsuit agreed to repatriate all assets held for the benefit of Binance’s U.S. trading customers.

The SEC alleges Binance broke U.S. law by operating as an unregistered securities exchange. It filed similar charges against the world’s other top cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, nearly simultaneously.

But Binance and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, face additional charges of diverting customer funds – concealing the fact that it was commingling billions of dollars in investor assets and sending them to a third party that Zhao also owned.

As a result, the SEC asked that the assets of Binance’s U.S. platform be frozen.

The order signed by Washington, D.C. federal judge Amy Berman Jackson prevents the defendants from spending corporate assets other than for ordinary business expenses. It also requires SEC oversight on any spending and prohibits the defendants from destroying records, the agency said in a statement.

The consent order obliges Binance to create new digital wallets for U.S. customers and transfer assets to them within two weeks.

The cryptocurrency industry has been marred by scandals and market meltdowns. Industry leaders say the SEC crackdown signals that U.S. regulators believe cryptocurrency has no room in the traditional financial system.

In August 2021, SEC chair Gary Gensler said investors weren’t adequately protected in crypto markets, calling them more like the “Wild West. ”

The collapse of crypto prices last year as well as the demise of several notable crypto companies — including FTX — exposed investors to billions of dollars in losses.