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Binance.US and Changpeng Zhao Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over FTX Collapse

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Binance.US and Binance founder Changpeng Zhao face a class-action lawsuit alleging unfair competition in connection with the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

The lawsuit centers around tweets made by Zhao in early November, which coincided with Binance’s decision to liquidate its holdings of FTX utility tokens (FTT). 

In one of these tweets, Zhao hinted at Binance’s intent to acquire FTX but later reversed the decision.

“This afternoon, FTX asked for our help,” Zhao had posted. “There is a significant liquidity crunch. To protect users, we signed a non-binding LOI, intending to fully acquire and help cover the liquidity crunch. We will be conducting a full DD in the coming days.”

But the lawsuit alleges that Zhao publicly disseminated this information [on the withdrawal of the acquisition offer] on Twitter and other social media platforms ”to hurt FTX Entities that ultimately lead to a rushed and unprecedented collapse of FTX.” 

Binance Had Already Sold FTT

The legal complaint asserts that Zhao’s tweet on November 6, which stated, “Due to recent revelations… we have decided to liquidate any remaining FTT on our books,” was false and misleading because Binance had already sold approximately $530 million worth of FTT. Zhao’s post was intended to manipulate the FTT market, resulting in a 14% price decline over 24 hours, Nir Lahav, the plaintiff added. 

“Zhao’s tweet resulted in FTT price declining from US 23.1510 to US 3.1468,” the lawsuit says. “This significant drop plummeted FTX Entities into bankruptcy without giving an opportunity or chance to FTX Entities’ executives and board of directors a chance [sic] to salvage the situation and put in safe guards to protect its clients and end-users.”

Following these actions, FTX entities suffered a swift collapse, leading to financial losses extending into the billions for its customers.

Zhao Defends Binance

The lawsuit highlights regulatory differences between the two exchanges. Zhao’s tweet included a comment that Binance wouldn’t support those “who lobby against other industry players behind their backs,” suggesting a disagreement with FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s advocacy for regulatory efforts in the crypto sector.

Taking all these factors into account, the plaintiffs argue that Zhao’s actions were not isolated incidents but part of a broader strategy to undermine FTX.

Lahav’s legal action seeks financial compensation, legal expenses, and the return of any unlawfully acquired profits.

Zhao has publicly defended Binance against accusations of unfair competition that is cited in the lawsuit, arguing that the situation was not an attempt to harm a competitor. “Regarding any speculation as to whether this is a move against a competitor, it is not,” he said.

Zhao To Blame For FTX Downfall

However, this hasn’t put an end to the ongoing speculation within the cryptocurrency community. In January, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) pointed to Zhao’s tweet as the cause of the downfall of FTX and Alameda Research. “In November 2022, an extreme, quick, targeted crash precipitated by the CEO of Binance made Alameda insolvent,” he wrote on his blog.

Both Zhao and Sam Bankman-Fried engaged in a heated exchange on Twitter in the aftermath of the lawsuit. Their exchanges have been under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for alleged violations of federal securities laws. Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial for fraud and money laundering charges is set to begin today with jury selection in New York, while Zhao has maintained his innocence amid regulatory scrutiny in the US.

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