In the later hours of Tuesday, a seismic shift reverberated through the global cryptocurrency community as Binance Saga was the talk of town. Reports emerged suggesting that Changpeng Zhao (CZ), the Co-founder and former CEO of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, was contemplating stepping down as part of a $4.3 billion settlement with the United States Department of Justice.
CZ subsequently confirmed this development by releasing a comprehensive statement addressing the situation on Twitter. In his statement, CZ not only announced his resignation but also revealed details about his replacement. This revelation sparked widespread reactions, considering CZ’s pivotal role as the face of Binance and a prominent figure in the global crypto space for the past seven years.
Here is a chronological overview of the events that unfolded during what could be considered the most eventful 24 hours of 2023 in the cryptocurrency industry:
Reports Surface on CZ’s Step-Down
Around 6 pm WAT on Tuesday, major news outlets reported that CZ was planning to step down from his position at Binance.
According to Technext, CZ had agreed to resign as the United States Department of Justice was preparing to announce a $4.3 billion settlement with the crypto exchange.
The reports also indicated that CZ would plead guilty to criminal charges related to violating U.S. anti-money laundering laws.
CZ Confirms and Releases Statement
At 9:36 WAT, CZ corroborated the speculations by releasing a statement on Twitter. While confirming his departure from the CEO role, he expressed intentions to remain involved in the crypto space through passive investments in startups focused on blockchain, Web3, DeFi, AI, and biotech. CZ mentioned that he would no longer serve as the CEO of another startup but would be open to mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs.
CZ’s successor, Richard Teng, was introduced in the statement. Teng had previously overseen Binance’s regional business outside the United States.
CZ Pleads Guilty
Later on the same Tuesday, Changpeng Zhao was released from custody on a $175 million personal recognizance bond.
He pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act, with allegations that he directed Binance to allow U.S. customers to use the platform without proper KYC or AML checks.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled for February 23, 2024, and CZ’s release terms included financial pledges from guarantors.
Binance Saga: Settlement and Impact
Binance, in addition to the $4.3 billion settlement with the DOJ, agreed to pay penalties to various federal agencies and allow monitors to oversee its operations for the next five years. The impact on Binance was reflected in significant withdrawals within 24 hours, exceeding $566.8 million.
Despite the turmoil, Binance’s “proof of reserves” report indicated robust financial health, with holdings of crypto assets valued at $65 billion, according to DefiLlama.
As uncertainty loomed over CZ’s departure and Binance’s future, the newly appointed CEO, Richard Teng, sought to reassure investors. In his introductory tweet, Teng emphasized the strength of Binance’s current foundation and outlined his focus on reinstating investor confidence, collaborating with regulators, and driving Web3 adoption.
The transition marked the end of an era with CZ’s departure, but the incoming leadership aimed to navigate the challenges and maintain Binance’s position in the dynamic cryptocurrency landscape.
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