Over the past two years, leading crypto exchange Binance has seen a concerning exodus of top executives. At least 16 high-level leaders across compliance, legal, product, marketing, and regional divisions have tendered their resignations since early 2021.
This brain drain has coincided with increased regulatory scrutiny in Binance’s major markets, including serious accusations from the SEC in June. Such losses during this stormy period hint at strategic uncertainty within the crypto giant and a lack of confidence about where or when all of this will end.
The first big blow came in April 2021, when Binance.US CEO Catherine Coley abruptly left after less than two years. Coley brought major US exchange experience from Ripple, the issuer of XRP. Her unexplained departure was an early red flag on Binance’s ambitions across the pond. This was followed in August by the exit of Brian Brooks, Coley’s short-lived successor who quit after just three months as US CEO.
Things really stepped up a gear this year, however. Steven Christie, Head of Compliance since 2020, resigned on July 6, 2023 amidst reports of dissatisfaction with founder CZ’s defensive stance towards regulators. However, Christie later clarified in a series of tweets , stating “My departure is far less sensational than any article might make it out to be.”
Although Christie maintained he was “proud” of the compliance program at Binance, he was the first of many compliance leaders to head for the door.
September 2023 saw Binance’s US arm implode with a mass exodus of senior figures essential to its success. US CEO, Brian Shroder, resigned after only one year, presaging layoffs of 30% of US staff. Shroder was hired to eventually take Binance’s US business public, but mounting legal issues have derailed those hopes.
Alongside Shroder, Chief Risk Officer Krishna Juvvadi and Deputy General Counsel Sidney Majalya also quit. These compliance chiefs were hired to boost Binance’s legal rigor in regulated US markets. Their rapid exit does not bode well for a company that used to take its US presence seriously. In 2019, the company even opened up a separate exchange—Binance.US—in order to remain legally compliant.
2023 also saw key international executives part of CZ’s inner circle leave the company. Marketing chief and brand builder Steve Milton resigned in July 2023 after almost five years. In July, Chief Strategy Officer, Patrick Hillmann, also quit after 2.5 years as a core strategist.
Reports suggest friction with CZ over his handling of the DOJ probe caused these loyal deputies to lose faith. If true, dissent at Binance’s highest levels could severely impact decision-making and operations.
Also in July, General Counsel Hon Ng left after nearly three years. Ng was instrumental in Binance’s legal processes globally. His departure alongside other core insiders like Milton hints at churn amongst those closest to CZ.
But compliance exits have likely raised the most red flags on Binance’s future viability amidst the intensifying regulatory spotlight. In September, Chief Risk Officer, Sid Majalya, resigned along with US legal heads. In July, Global Head of Intelligence and Investigations, Matthew Price, also quit after being hired to keep Binance on the good side of the law.
Binance France’s legal chief, Stephanie Cabossioras , left on October 18, several months after the country charged Binance with money laundering. Taken together, these represent a concerning compliance exodus at a time when Binance desperately needs to improve regulatory rigor globally.
An additional worrying trend has been heads of strategic regions leaving en masse recently. Helen Hai oversaw Africa, Binance’s key developing market—but she resigned on September 6. Days before, APAC head Leon Foong also quit following rumors of employee dissatisfaction. Vladimir Merkis and Gleb Kostarev, leading Binance’s Russian operations, also left in quick succession on September 6.
Losing multiple regional heads as scrutiny rises globally does not portend well for Binance to maintain growth in these key markets. If left unchecked, the exodus raises real doubts about Binance’s ability to maintain current dominance as regulatory pressures keep mounting.
Notably, Binance was one of the biggest losers in Q3, according to a new report. In September, its market share dropped to 44%, down significantly from a peak of 66% in February.
CZ has repeatedly taken to reposting a January 2 tweet reminding readers to “Ignore FUD” (or fear, uncertainty, and doubt) every time the company hits the news. The only problem is, the news keeps getting worse.