Meet Changpeng Zhao, the Cyrpto Billionaire Behind Binance

But Zhao’s journey at Binance has been far from smooth sailing — the company has been embroiled in several controversies.

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, speaks at the Delta Summit, Malta's official Blockchain and Digital Innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in St Julian's, Malta October 4, 2018.

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance.

REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

In October, some $570 million worth of cryptocurrency traded on Binance was stolen in a blockchain hack, according to the New York Times. Zhao told CNBC in an October interview that no users had lost money in the attack, and that “software code is never bug free.” The Binance hack is one of the biggest cryptocurrency hacks of all time.

Binance said in a blog post that in the event of a hack in the future, its validators will decide if the hacked funds will be frozen. The decision would be made through a series of “on-chain governance votes” — the system that manages and implements changes to the blockchain. Binance added they would also consider implementing a “bug bounty reward system,” so users are incentivized to report bugs.

Binance has also been criticized for its ties to China. Binance only delisted Chinese yuan-based trading pairs on the exchange in 2021, and served customers in China for several years, according to September article by Protos. Chinese authorities banned all crypto-related transactions in September 2021.

Zhao responded to these allegations in a blog post published in September, where he clarified that Binance was never incorporated in China and said it does not “operate like a Chinese company culturally.” He added that he is “a Canadian citizen, period.”

Binance also garnered controversy for enabling Iran-based users to trade cryptocurrencies on the exchange despite US-imposed sanctions, according to a July report by Reuters. Binance informed traders in Iran to liquidate their accounts in November 2018, but seven traders continued until September 2021 to use the account even after the ban. Binance did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment at the time.

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