and crypto exchange Binance’s ethereum rival BNB
has rocketed up the crypto charts since its launch in 2017.
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The BNB price has soared 300-fold, giving it a market capitalization of over $18 billion. The massive rally has been helped by a huge increase in both the bitcoin price and the ethereum price since late 2020though it’s recently crashed along with the wider crypto market as stark fears spread of a new “crypto winter.”
Now, after it emerged BNB is reportedly the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) probe into whether Binance broke securities rules by selling BNB, one bitcoin and crypto exchange expert has warned over “potential conflicts of interest and market fairness issues” at Binance.
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“The very object of the SEC investigation, Binance’s BNB, is a prime example of potential conflicts of interest and market fairness issues,” Zoltan Kormanyos, general counsel at international broker comparison website BrokerChooser, said in emailed comments, adding the SEC probe “reinforces the trend” the comparison site identified in its research into bitcoin and crypto exchanges.
Kormanyos argues crypto exchanges use fundraising and trading products similar to traditional finance while claiming they should be treated differently by regulators. Since the 2017 initial coin offering (ICO) boom, which saw a flood of companies look to raise money by issuing cryptocurrencies, the SEC has brought dozens of enforcement actions over ICOs.
The probe into Binance and BNB is likely months away from any conclusion, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. News of the investigation sparked a 10% drop in the BNB price, which has since slightly rebounded.
Binance’s BNB white paper, published ahead of its launch, said 85% of the funds raised in the ICO would be used to build and promote the Binance platform. Binance traders using BNB to pay fees get a discount on the exchange.
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“Whilst the SEC investigates Binance all eyes are now on the brand themselves who seem to be lacking transparency across entities as it is unclear how Binance is related to other brands falling under the same umbrella,” Kormanyos said, pointing to a myriad of legal and regulatory challenges faced by Binance over the last year and the relationship between Binance and its U.S. affiliate BinanceUS.
The BNB price has crashed along with bitcoin, ethereum and other major cryptocurrencies in recent months, losing more than half its value since late last year.
In late 2020, the SEC sued crypto company Ripple, alleging it broke securities rules when it sold its XRP
cryptocurrency, crashing the XRP price. Ripple remains locked in a long-running legal battle with the SEC though the price of XRP has recovered.
This week, Binance was also hit by accusations it was the vehicle for the laundering of at least $2.35 billion in illicit funds.
Reuters published a report that analyzed court records, spoke with law enforcement, and worked with blockchain analysis firms Chainalysis and Crystal Blockchain to track illicit funds on Binance, claiming the exchange has become a “hub for hackers, fraudsters and drug traffickers.”
Binance pushed back on the report’s various claims, telling Forbes the report is a “woefully misinformed op-ed that uses outdated information from 2019 and unverified personal attestations.”