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The New Head of Compliance at Binance

Author: Syedur Rahman  1 February 2024

Syed Rahman considers the task facing the crypto exchange’s new compliance chief.

Binance has appointed Lesley O’Neill as its new chief compliance officer in the United States.

O’Neill, who was previously chief compliance officer at the digital identity verification platform Prove Identity, will now head Binance’s attempts to enhance its compliance in the wake of its resolutions with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of Foreign Assets Control,  the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Those resolutions saw the company agree to pay $4.3 billion for huge compliance failures. The settlement, however, provides Binance with an opportunity to at least rebuild trust with customers. That could prove vital for a company that pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought by the DOJ for evading sanctions and ignoring anti-money laundering rules, had to face a raft of civil settlements and was excluded from the US market.

O’Neill’s role could prove pivotal in that challenge, bearing in mind that Binance has to complete a five-year compliance monitorship with FinCen and a three-year one with the DOJ. If these are completed and Binance’s compliance programme is considered to be of suitable standard, the company should be able to re-enter the US market.

Binance reached its settlements in the shadow of the huge FTX scandal. As a result, it stood to benefit if it could portray its failings as compliance failures rather than anything of a more serious nature that was worthy of criminal prosecution.

The appointment of O’Neill can be seen as a large piece of the jigsaw that Binance now has to put together to convince the authorities - and all interested parties and current and potential customers – that it is back on track.

The monitorships that Binance has to complete are the first of a kind and include very detailed compliance requirements. If its new head of compliance can steer it through these, the long-term prospects for Binance will look bright. 

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Syedur Rahman is known for his in-depth experience of serious fraud, white-collar crime and serious crime cases, as well as his expertise in worldwide asset tracing and recovery, international arbitration, civil recovery, cryptocurrency and high-stakes commercial disputes.

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