Australian regulator cancels Binance’s license at exchange’s request

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The logo of cryptocurrency exchange Binance displayed on a phone screen.

Jakub Porzycki | NurPhoto via Getty Images

Binance’s Australian derivatives license was canceled at the crypto exchange’s own request, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission said Thursday, after the regulator had begun a “targeted review of Binance” in February.

Beginning April 14, Binance’s derivatives clients in Australia will not be able to open or increase their existing trading positions. By April 21, Binance will be required to close out any remaining trading positions, the regulator said.

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“Our targeted review of these matters is ongoing, including focus on the extent of consumer harms,” ASIC Chair Joe Longo said.

“Following recent engagement with ASIC, Binance has chosen to pursue a more focused approach in Australia by winding down the Binance Australia Derivatives business,” a Binance spokesperson said, adding that there were “approximately 100” derivatives customers left.

Binance’s exchange token was down just under 0.5% on Thursday morning.

Regulatory scrutiny of Binance has been mounting in recent weeks and months. Anti-money laundering and know-your-customer compliance issues are at the heart of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s extensive complaint against the crypto exchange and its founder, Changpeng Zhao. The complaint detailed how fees from derivatives trading provided highly lucrative revenue for Binance.

Binance’s market share has slipped 16% in recent weeks, according to research firm Kaiko, though it remains the most dominant exchange in the world by volume.

An apparently inadvertent compliance issue led to the Australian regulatory probe. Binance does business around the world using a large number of subsidiaries, including Oztures Trading Pty Ltd in Australia.

In February, Binance disclosed that a “small number” of its Australian customers had been classified as “wholesale investors,” a trading classification for experienced investors that let them access more sophisticated financial products. It’s a designation that’s roughly analogous to the “qualified investor” category in the U.S.

Binance’s high net worth investors have been a point of concern for regulators worldwide. In the U.S., the CFTC accused Binance of offering favorable treatment to its wealthiest clients, helping them skirt U.S. regulations by trading through overseas shell companies or virtual private networks.

CNBC previously reported on similar techniques encouraged by staff and volunteers that were used by Binance’s customers in mainland China.

The heightened attention on Binance’s practices comes as U.S. regulators crack down on centralized exchanges more broadly. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently warned Coinbase that it could soon face potential securities charges.

Australia’s top securities regulator has had a challenging relationship with the crypto industry in recent months, pursuing enforcement actions against several firms the regulator alleges have violated Australian law.

“Binance group entities have been the subject of regulatory warnings and action from a number of overseas regulators,” the ASIC release noted.

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