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Will Binance go down?

After the collapse of FTX, Binance is becoming the eye of the storm in the entire cryptocurrency world.

On December 11, 2022, the Bahamas police arrested FTX founder SBF (Sam Bankman-Fried) at the request of the United States. SBF, refusing to be extradited to the United States, finally boarded a plane to the United States. Waiting for him will be eight criminal charges, including fraud and money laundering, with a maximum of 115 years in prison.

According to CryptoCompare data, before FTX's collapse, FTX was firmly seated as the third largest cryptocurrency exchange with about $37 billion in spot transactions, second only to Coinbase and $390 billion in Binance, which processed $47 billion in October 2022.

The sudden collapse of a cryptocurrency giant is embarrassing, and Binance, as the winner, has not had time to celebrate the strangulation of this victory. The cold wind and backstab are hitting the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange.

Withdrawal Tide Test

This turmoil began when the regulatory pressure encountered by Binance gradually surfaced. On December 13, 2022, there were media reports that the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into Binance began in 2018, focusing on whether Binance violated U.S. anti-money laundering laws and sanctions.

While some prosecutors believe enough evidence has been gathered to take aggressive action against Binance and bring criminal charges against individual executives, including founder Changpeng Zhao, others say time is still needed to review more evidence.

According to blockchain analytics firm Nansen, investors pulled as much as $3 billion out of Binance on Dec. 13, and Binance’s net outflows from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14, 2022, to nearly $6 billion.

According to Nansen data, on November 10, Binance had about US$70 billion in reserves, dropping to US$54.7 billion by December 17 last year after withdrawals and price fluctuations. Two dollar-pegged stablecoins, Binance’s BUSD and Tether, account for half of its holdings, while about 9% of Binance’s assets are in its internal token, BNB.

FTX Fallen Shadow

After FTX went bankrupt, Changpeng Zhao immediately issued a proposal, saying that the exchange should check the proof of reserves for encrypted assets. In the future, users should be allowed to confirm their holdings and that the exchange's accounts match the customer's assets.

The biggest reason FTX collapsed quickly in a short period is that the rapid growth of the encryption industry over the past period has overshadowed people’s concerns about the opaque risk management of internal funds in cryptocurrency exchanges. After the loophole of misappropriating customer funds was put on the table, the market could no longer bear it.

In response, Binance hired the accounting firm Mazars to examine Binance's Bitcoin holdings. On December 7 last year, Mazars released a report showing that Binance's Bitcoin assets exceeded its customers' Bitcoin liabilities; Changpeng Zhao also issued a document saying: that Binance's financial transparency is proof of audit reserves.

"After the FTX explosion, Binance took a more positive attitude towards the regulatory loopholes in internal fund management exposed by centralized exchanges, but obviously, everyone still feels that it has not done enough." The practice of Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, Shanghai Jiaotong University Hu Jie, a professor and former senior economist of the Federal Reserve, said.

Hu Jie explained that although Binance is actively promoting the encryption industry to introduce cryptographic methods such as Merkle trees as proof of reserves, these methods have limitations, because the actual operation does not verify every investor's funds. It is to conduct spot checks, which means this method is not 100% reliable. The credibility of the exchange reserve certificate must seek the endorsement of a third-party audit company.

"In addition, during the actual landing audit, Binance did not spot-check all assets, but only proved the core Bitcoin assets. How about other tokens, such as Ethereum, and whether they have been misappropriated? It is opaque. Of course, Binance will say that my current workload is too late, and I can only randomly check bitcoins today, and bitcoins have the best liquidity. This rhetoric may be acceptable to everyone when the market is good, but it is not easy to say right now." Hu Jie said.

On December 16, Binance suddenly stated that Mazars had suspended services for all customers in the cryptocurrency field, including Binance, which once again provoked the sensitive nerves of the market.

Subsequently, Binance quickly came forward to reassure the market sentiment, saying that Binance can "handle customer withdrawals effortlessly", and that Mazars' decision does not mean that customers' funds are at risk. "Our users want to know that their funds are safe and that our business is in good financial health. We embrace increased transparency and are looking at the best way to provide these details in the coming months."

Mazars' refusal to endorse it also caused BNB to plummet, falling from $260 to $225 in one day, the lowest BNB price since July.

On December 18 last year, the official website of Mazars withdrew the above report provided for Binance. A Marzars spokesman later said the suspension was limited to reports providing proof of reserves. Since they had "concerns about how the public interprets the reports".

Even more embarrassing is that on December 19 last year, a spokesperson for Binance stated that the four major accounting firms, such as Deloitte and KPMG, were unwilling to conduct reserve certification audits for private encryption companies.

Will Binance go down?

Regarding the future fate of Binance, the biggest uncertainty returns to political censorship, which also makes everything more unpredictable.

Another person in the currency circle revealed that, at present, the evidence collected by the Seattle prosecutor's office and the Department of Justice is no longer just against Binance itself but includes CZ(Changpeng Zhao) and other executives. However, it is still being determined whether to charge. Binance hired former DOJ official Kendall Day to handle the allegations and has spent the past few months coordinating with the DOJ to resolve them out of court, such as pleading guilty or paying a fine.

"At present, even if the Ministry of Justice convicts Binance in the worst case, it is likely to solve the problem by paying fines and other methods. Since Binance owns at least half of the market share of the cryptocurrency market and holds a large amount of cash flow, it can hire the top lawyer team in the industry; after all, there are almost no problems that cannot be solved with money in the United States." Another person in the currency circle anonymously said.

Regardless, time is running out for the largest cryptocurrency exchange on the planet. And, no matter what law enforcement does, the ultimate fate of Binance — and any black-box cryptocurrency company — is more predictable than ever. Looking back at financial history, it is not difficult to see how prominent the consequences of trying to bypass the central bank and get rid of safety nets and regulations are. Of course, Binance fans still believe that they must be the exception.


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