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Binance settlement likely a watershed moment in crypto regulation: CFTC Commissioner

A senior U.S. regulator has suggested that the $4.3 billion settlement with Binance last month could represent a peak in enforcement actions against cryptocurrency firms. The settlement, which was for breaching U.S. anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, may provide a governance “template” for the crypto industry.

CFTC Commissioner Kristin Johnson expressed her views at an FT crypto and digital assets summit:

“My hope would be that we have seen a spike, and what we will see going forward is that these early cases will really be a bit of cautionary tale for those firms that really do want to successfully operate in this ecosystem.”

She continued: “For those firms that really do want to successfully operate in this space, there is an increasingly clear template for how to operate. Take the hint.”

Overdue reckoning

The Binance case—a sprawling web of legal actions from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Justice (DOJ), and other regulatory bodies—represents a significant shift in the crypto regulatory landscape.  On Nov. 21, 20203, Binance Holdings Limited and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, pleaded guilty to federal charges in a $4.3 billion resolution, the largest corporate resolution to include criminal charges for an executive. The charges encompassed anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmitting, and sanctions violations.

This plea is a part of coordinated resolutions with the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the U.S. CFTC. The Justice Department revealed that Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, prioritized growth and profits over compliance with U.S. law and was charged accordingly (The SEC, which has also filed charges against Binance, has not settled.)

This marks a dramatic turning point since April 2023, when the CFTC was in ongoing conversations with Binance and had not decided whether to settle or go to court. Commissioner Johnson stated at the time that there was “not an immediate path forward.”

However, the path appears clearer now, and the Binance settlement could prove to be a watershed moment in crypto regulation. Johnson’s comments suggest a possible de-escalation in enforcement actions but with a stronger emphasis on robust operational models and disclosure practices for crypto firms.



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