4 - 7 minute read
Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has recently been struggling to maintain confidence among its customers due to a surge in withdrawals and a drop in the value of its digital token. In response to these events, Binance has assured its customers that its financial position is solid and that it takes its role as a custodian seriously. Despite these assurances, a Reuters analysis of Binance’s corporate filings reveals that the main component of the business, the Binance.com exchange, which has processed trades worth over $22 trillion this year, remains largely hidden from public view.
Binance’s assurances of financial stability
Binance has declined to disclose the location of Binance.com, as well as basic financial information such as revenue, profit, and cash reserves. It has its own cryptocurrency, but has not revealed its role on the company’s balance sheet. Additionally, while the company allows customers to trade on margin using borrowed funds and lends money to them against their crypto assets, it does not provide details on the size of these bets, the risk to which Binance is exposed, or the full extent of its reserves to finance withdrawals.
Unlike its US rival Coinbase, which is a public company listed on the Nasdaq, Binance is not required to publish detailed financial statements. Furthermore, Binance has not raised outside capital since 2018, meaning it has not had to share financial information with external investors since then. In fact, as previously reported by Reuters, Binance has actively avoided oversight, with company messages and interviews with former employees, advisers, and business associates suggesting that Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s founder, approved a plan to “insulate” the main Binance operation from US regulatory scrutiny by setting up a new American exchange. Zhao has denied signing off on this plan, stating that the unit was set up with the advice of top law firms.
Binance’s significant role in the cryptocurrency market, accounting for over half of all trading volume, has drawn the attention of US regulators. The company is currently under investigation by the US Justice Department for possible money laundering and sanctions violations, and Reuters has reported that some prosecutors believe they have gathered sufficient evidence to charge Binance and some top executives.
Binance under investigation by US Justice Department
In an attempt to gain insight into Binance’s financial information, Reuters reviewed filings by Binance units in 14 jurisdictions where the exchange claims to have “regulatory licenses, registrations, authorizations, and approvals.” These locations include several European Union countries, Dubai, and Canada. Zhao has described these authorizations as milestones in Binance’s “journey to being fully licensed and regulated around the world.”
The Reuters analysis of these filings reveals that the units appear to have submitted little information about Binance’s business to authorities. The public filings do not show, for example, the amount of money flowing between the units and the main Binance.com exchange. Additionally, several of the units appear to have minimal activity.
Former regulators and former Binance executives have stated that these local businesses serve as a front for the unregulated main exchange. John Reed Stark, a former chief of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Internet Enforcement, has described Binance’s operations as more opaque than those of FTX, stating that “there is absolutely no transparency, no sunlight, no confirmation of any kind about its financial position.”
In response to these allegations, Binance Chief Strategy Officer Patrick Hillmann has denied the accuracy of the Reuters analysis of the units’ filings in the 14 jurisdictions, stating that “the amount of corporate and financial information that has to be disclosed to regulators in those markets is immense, often requiring a six-month-long disclosure process.” Hillmann also pointed out that Binance is subject to external audits and has implemented Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering measures.
Despite Binance’s efforts to address concerns about its transparency and financial stability, some industry experts have called for the company to be more open and transparent. While Binance is not a public company and is not required to disclose financial information, the lack of transparency raises questions about its operations and the risks to which it is exposed. As the cryptocurrency market continues to grow and mature, exchanges like Binance will likely face increasing pressure to provide more transparency and accountability to customers and regulators.
In the wake of the collapse of rival exchange FTX last month, Binance’s promise to “lead by example” in embracing transparency is all the more important. If Binance is truly committed to this goal, it should consider making a greater effort to disclose financial information and provide more transparency into its operations. This could involve providing more information on its financial position, including revenue, profit, and cash reserves, as well as details on its use of cryptocurrency, lending practices, and margin trading.
Binance’s dominance in the cryptocurrency market also highlights the need for more robust regulatory oversight. While the company has obtained regulatory licenses and approvals in various jurisdictions, the lack of transparency in its operations raises questions about the effectiveness of these regulations. If exchanges like Binance are to continue operating in an increasingly regulated market, they will need to demonstrate that they are transparent, accountable, and compliant with relevant regulations.
Binance is facing challenges in maintaining customer confidence due to a surge in withdrawals and a drop in the value of its digital token. While the company has assured its customers that its financial position is solid and that it takes its role as a custodian seriously, a Reuters analysis of its corporate filings reveals that the main component of its business, the Binance.com exchange, remains largely hidden from public view. In order to rebuild confidence and maintain its position as a leader in the cryptocurrency market, Binance should consider increasing its transparency and providing more information on its financial position and operations. Additionally, regulators should ensure that exchanges like Binance are held accountable and compliant with relevant regulations.