Cryptocurrency exchange Binance just can’t seem to commit to full transparency. Richard Teng, the new CEO looking to reform the company’s troubled image, dodged a simple question that continues to epitomize Binance’s evasiveness.
At the FT Crypto and Digital Assets Summit in London this week, Teng refused to disclose the location of Binance’s global headquarters.
This non-answer smacks of the same secrecy Binance has long been criticized for under its founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao. It also contradicts Teng’s recent claims that the company is ready to turn over a new, compliant leaf. Teng told Fortune last month that Binance would now “behave like a fully compliant business”, appoint a board of directors, establish an official address, and adopt a conventional corporate structure.
Yet when asked point-blank in London where its HQ is based, Teng gave vague remarks about regional offices instead.
To recap, Zhao stepped down as CEO after Binance pled guilty to criminal charges in the US including money laundering and sanctions violations . The company paid eye-watering penalties of $4.3 billion in settlements with US authorities. Teng took over vowing reform, integrity and transparency. His refusal to disclose Binance’s base seems to undermine these promises right out of the gate.
Teng, who took over the CEO role on November 21, even dared to turn the question around on his interviewer. He asked: “Why do you feel so entitled to those answers?”. For a company pledging a clean slate, Binance still appears extremely allergic to straight answers.
Let’s also remember that under Zhao, Binance intentionally obscured its China links for years despite claiming to have left the country. The US Department of Justice called out this ongoing deception in its investigation. Yet Teng follows in his predecessor’s footsteps in keeping the company’s physical location a secret.
Granted, Teng did confirm regional HQs in France and Dubai. But on the most basic question of a global home base, Binance’s new CEO seems intent on maintaining the status quo of secrecy.
He mentioned that Binance has been audited in areas where it’s regulated. But he didn’t say which audit firms did the work. The company has very bad form when using the word ‘audit,’ too. In late 2022, as the industry focused on proof-of-reserves (PoR), Binance claimed its own PoRs had been fully audited by Mazars. In fact, it was only an agreed-upon-procedure , a much less rigorous financial review. Several sources informed the author at the time that the document was essentially worthless and proved very little.
Shortly after, Mazars stopped working with the company completely.
For an organization vowing full compliance and transparency after paying billions in fines, this paranoid style reflects poorly right out of the gate. It begs the question: if Binance won’t answer such a simple query about its headquarters, what else could they be hiding?
According to an analysis from Bloomberg , Binance’s revenue is estimated to be around $20 billion in 2021. (There are no more recent figures out in the public domain). That is no small sum. That year, for comparison, Netflix made $29.7 billion , Adobe made $15.8 billion, Twitter made just over $5 billion, and McDonald’s made a bit more than Binance at $23.2 billion .
The fact of the matter is, we know a lot more about those companies than we do about Binance, which is a black box by comparison. We know where their headquarters are, and each company has a more traditional corporate structure.
Richard Teng had the opportunity this week to chart a different path. The fact he not only swerved it, but appeared irritated by the line of inquiry, indicates little has changed.