Binance’s founder and former CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, pleaded guilty to violating the Bank Secrecy Act. The charges against Binance include money laundering violations, conspiracy to engage in an unlicensed money-transmitting business, and violations of US sanctions. It’s worth noting that US authorities haven’t accused Binance of misusing user funds or engaging in market manipulation.
The latest turn of events is expected to catalyze the anticipated approval of a spot-based bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the US.
A Catalyst for Spot Bitcoin ETF Expectations?
The crypto market faced unexpected turbulence on November 21 following the announcement of a $4.3-billion settlement between Binance and US authorities, including the Department of Justice, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and US Treasury.
Additionally, the former CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, revealed plans to plead guilty to a felony charge as part of the settlement, addressing criminal and civil cases involving the exchange. This development might serve as a catalyst for heightened expectations of a spot Bitcoin ETF, Matrixport analyst Markus Thielen said in a new report.
Thielen believes the likelihood of a spot Bitcoin ETF has possibly increased to 100%, as the cryptocurrency industry will now be compelled to adhere to the regulations followed by traditional financial firms (TradFi). This increased regulatory compliance could strengthen the case for institutional players to adopt Bitcoin, positioning it as a safe-haven asset in investors’ portfolios.
Moreover, the FTX exchange is expected to undergo a sale and transition to a management team compliant with US securities laws starting next month, potentially relaunching the exchange by Q3 2024. Anticipated inflows of $24-50 billion into any US-listed Bitcoin ETF and the increasing presence of crypto firms engaging in CME-listed crypto derivatives suggest a trend toward regulated and compliant platforms catering to institutional investors, the report said.
Additionally, the enforcement actions by US agencies throughout the year signal a shift from unregulated retail-focused exchanges to fully regulated venues for institutions.
“As the macro-environment continues to be a tailwind with the demand from institutions, 2024 will likely be another rocking year for Bitcoin – CZ might come back during the next bear market in 2026.”
Favorable Outcome for Binance
With CZ stepping down and the imposed fine being less than the feared $10 billion, Binance is expected to maintain its position as one of the top three cryptocurrency exchanges for the next 2-3 years, according to the Matrixport analyst.
However, the company, which currently employs 6,000 people, may face pressure to streamline its operations. Despite the plea deal not involving the SEC, it represents a favorable outcome for CZ and Binance.
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