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Binance slams US crypto crackdown and makes bid for UK oversight

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has said a crackdown on crypto has made it “very difficult” to do business in the US, adding it now hopes to be regulated in the UK.

The firm’s chief strategy officer Patrick Hillmann said at the FT’s crypto and digital assets summit that the US “has been very confusing over the past six months”. He pointed to the SEC’s actions against rival exchange Coinbase over alleged securities laws violations as a sign of how “the US right now is in this weird place”.

In contrast with his comments that it is now a “very difficult time” to do business in the US, Hillmann said Binance would do “everything we possibly can” to be regulated in the UK.

Binance had previously clashed with London regulators who said the exchange was incapable of being regulated after it failed to provide basic information about its business activity. The group has no fixed headquarters and offers services around the world.

In 2021 the FCA ordered the company to stop all regulated activities in Britain, and last year a joint venture partner said the firm had filed a “grossly inaccurate” annual report for one of its UK companies.

Hillman declined to confirm whether the company had reapplied to the Financial Conduct Authority’s registration regime for crypto businesses, which covers companies’ processes to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

Other groups have claimed that UK officials have been overly wary of fintech and crypto companies. This week, the head of payments company Revolut blamed “extra cautious” UK regulators for delays in gaining its banking licence.

Binance has been the target of US regulators clamping down on perceived illicit activity this year.

In March the Commodity Futures Trading Commission brought a lawsuit against the group, alleging it had been operating illegally in the country and had broken the law by extensively soliciting US customers. At the time Binance called the CFTC complaint “unexpected and disappointing”.

The Department of Justice also named Binance as a counterparty to Bitzlato, a crypto exchange whose founder was charged with transmitting millions of illicit crypto funds in violation of US money laundering regulations.

Binance’s US affiliate, Binance US, last month abandoned a proposed $1bn deal for the assets belonging to Voyager Digital, a crypto lender which fell into bankruptcy last year.

Hillmann played down the threat of US enforcement actions on Binance’s business, saying: “I expect at some point the US is going to want to pivot and play catch-up to Europe which just passed Mica [the EU’s cryptoasset regulation], which is a huge step forward.”

The EU legislation is intended to provide a framework for regulating crypto assets in the bloc, so giving greater certainty to consumers and market participants.

The Binance enforcement case is one of many brought by US regulators against some of the biggest companies in the crypto industry.

Among them, Nasdaq-listed Coinbase is the focus of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into possible securities laws violation. Crypto payments company Ripple is also engaged in a long-running lawsuit brought by the SEC in 2020 alleging it violated securities laws.

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