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Binance executives exit as crypto exchange faces legal pressure

Several top executives of major cryptocurrency exchange Binance are leaving the company as it faces pressure from regulators in numerous countries.

Chief strategy officer Patrick Hillmann and senior vice president of compliance Steven Christie said in tweets Thursday that both had left. General counsel Hon Ng has also departed, according to Binance.

Binance said Matthew Price, the company’s global head of intelligence and investigations and a former IRS agent, left earlier this year.

Binance and its CEO Changpeng Zhao disputed some details of an article in Fortune that reported the executives chose to depart over Zhao’s handling of an ongoing probe into the company by the Department of Justice. Fortune was the first to report the executive exits.

"Yes, there is turnover (at every company). But the reasons dreamed up by the "news" are completely wrong,” Zhao said over Twitter. "We continue to BUILD, and continue to hire," he added.

A spokesperson for Binance said Friday that "the reason reported for why they departed is simply not true."

Hillmann, who joined the company in September 2021, said Thursday over Twitter that "it’s true that I am leaving [Binance], but I’m doing so on good terms." He added that "my wife is literally going to give birth to our second child any hour now (literally), so the time is right for me to step aside."

Christie, the exchange's senior vice president of compliance, said Thursday in his own tweet that "I can confirm that I am indeed leaving [Binance], but the reasons for my departure are very different than what was reported."

Binance has faced a sharp rise in scrutiny from regulators across the world following the collapse of crypto exchange FTX last November.

It currently faces two civil lawsuits from US regulators. In March the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) accused Binance and Zhao of violating US law by allegedly breaching derivatives licensing rules.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Binance in June, alleging it violated securities laws, mishandled customer funds and misled investors. Binance has said it plans "vigorously" defend itself against the allegations made by the SEC in court.

Lisbon , Portugal - 2 November 2022; Changpeng Zhao, Co-Founder & CEO, Binance, at Media Village during day one of Web Summit 2022 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)
Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance. (Photo By Ben McShane/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images) (Ben McShane via Getty Images)

Binance.US, a America based exchange that Binance claims isn't affiliated with the international platform, has seen its crypto spot market share drop to 1% from 20% since the SEC filed its lawsuit against Binance, according to crypto data provider Kaiko.

The Justice Department has also reportedly been investigating Binance for more than a year.

Binance has either pulled out or asked to cease business operations in a number of other countries in recent months, including Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Nigeria. French regulators have also begun a preliminary investigation of the exchange over money-laundering violation concerns, according to Reuters.

The exchange's BNB token (BNB-USD) is down 5% for the last five days and just as much since the beginning of January as of Friday noon New York time.

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