Changpeng Zhao, founder and chief executive officer of Binance, attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France June 16, 2022 Image Credit: Reuters

Washington: Wall Street's main regulator accused Binance Holdings Ltd. and its Chief Executive Officer Changpeng Zhao of breaking US securities rules, a major escalation in the legal woes facing the crypto exchange.

In a case filed in US federal court on Monday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the firm flouted investor protection rules by operating unregistered exchanges, misrepresenting trading controls and selling unregistered securities, among other violations.

"Through thirteen charges, we allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law," SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement. "The public should beware of investing any of their hard-earned assets with or on these unlawful platforms."


A representative for Binance didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. On Twitter, Zhao said his team would review the complaint.

The case follows a lawsuit from the US derivatives watchdog in March that alleges Binance and Zhao routinely broke its rules. At the time, the exchange and Zhao defended their compliance efforts and called the lawsuit by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission disappointing, while also pledging to keep working with regulators.

The SEC has for months been probing whether Binance illegally sold digital coins as the exchange was getting off the ground in 2017. The token, which is known as BNB, is now among the world's largest.

A virtual currency may fall under the SEC's remit if investors buy it to fund a company or project with the intention of profiting from those efforts. That determination is based on a 1946 US Supreme Court decision defining investment contracts.