Only four days after the Commodity Futures Trading Commission brought a highly-publicized suit against Binance, the biggest crypto in the world is facing another massive legal challenge.
Binance has been hit with a $1 billion lawsuit by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) over allegations of operating an unregistered trading platform. The previous lawsuit, filed on March 26, 2023, also targets Binance’s founder, Changpeng Zhao (CZ), and three top crypto influencers.
This time around, late on March 31, the Moscowitz Law Firm and Boies Schiller Flexner, which is home to super-attorney David Boies, filed a class action suit against Binance, its founder Changpeng Zhao (CZ), and Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat.
The suit alleges that Binance traded cryptocurrencies that qualify as unregistered securities and that social media influencers paid by the company promoted these instruments unlawfully. The law firms previously teamed up to bring class action suits against Voyager and FTX, which targeted compensated influencers for promoting FTX’s native coin, FTT. The new action seeks damages of over $1 billion from the Binance companies and the influencers.
Celebrities who served as Binance’s highly-paid brand ambassadors include a roster that featured basketballers Shaquille O’Neal and Steph Curry, comedian Larry David, and football legend Tom Brady.
In mid-March, Moscowitz Law and Boies Schiller sued up to eight compensated ‘influencers’ for promoting FTT. According to the suit, influencers are liable for client losses on the collapsed coin since it qualified as an “unregistered security.”
The new legal action against Binance rests on a similar basic assertion:
It alleges that Binance has been operating an unregistered trading platform that allows users to buy and sell securities, including cryptocurrencies, without complying with federal regulations. The CFTC claims that Binance has been engaging in illegal trading practices, including wash trading, spoofing, and manipulating the market.
The complaint charges:
“This is a classic example of a centralized exchange, which is promoting the sale of an unregistered security.”
Notably, this suit seeks damages exceeding $1 billion, cumulatively, from the Binance firms and the influencers. Moscowitz noted:
“We’ve been investigating these same unregistered security issues against Binance for over a year.”
As per the complaint, individuals who buy unregistered securities are eligible for compensation under applicable state securities laws that equal their entire incurred losses. The accused parties are not required to demonstrate that they were influenced or misled by the promotional posts or advertisements featuring the coins, but only that they had encountered them.
As Moscowitz told Fortune:
“The statute clearly states that if an influencer is promoting unregistered security, and has a financial interest in doing so, the influencer may be liable to everyone who bought the assets. The exchange that facilitates the trades would be liable as well.”
In this court case, the plaintiffs are two Florida residents and an individual from California, all of whom lost money while trading coins promoted by the Binance exchange and the influencers. However, the complaint estimates that the people who qualify for damages could be ‘in the millions.’
The defendants are Binance’s three principal international entities, Changpeng Zhao, Binance’s U.S. affiliate, and three influencers. Apart from Butler, the influencer defendants at this stage are major crypto promoters Ben Armstrong, called BitBoy Crypto, and Graham Stephan, who has at least 4.1 million subscribers on YouTube.
The complaint is noteworthy for referencing both Binance’s native token, BNB, and its lesser-known Affiliate Program. It argues that CZ’s practice of “burning” or eliminating BNB to increase its value constitutes branding BNB as a security. The suit also provides specifics on how Binance Affiliates receive rebates on trades for investors they refer via a unique link to buy and sell coins on the Binance platform.
Therefore, Armstrong and Stephan allegedly received payment for promoting unregistered securities illegally through Affiliate kickbacks. Moskowitz said that it will add several other Binance influencers to this suit in future filings.
This suit is not just aiming to get compensation for Floridians who lost money. It is also suing under California law. The lawsuit extends beyond the CFTC charges, alleging that Binance covertly and aggressively marketed its services to customers across the United States, making all US residents who incurred losses eligible for compensation.
The complaint goes beyond this by proposing a “global class” that includes “all individuals and entities outside the United States.” It is not at all guaranteed that the Florida court will deem BNB and other coins as unregistered securities. Moskowitz is encouraged that the Securities and Exchange Commission made this determination in actions against FTT together with a recent suit versus Tron’s currency TRX.Buy Crypto Now
“If we win on the unregistered securities issue, there will be no question that Binance and the influencers are liable. Ironically, FTX was going to be the savior of Voyager until their fraud was uncovered, and now Binance is supposed to be the next savior. Given the bankruptcy cases, this may be the last chance for the victims to seek any recovery from their losses from crypto fraud.”
This case could be a turning point, as a victory for the plaintiffs could lead to a significant setback for the cryptocurrency universe, causing social media influencers who have played a critical role in promoting this populist phenomenon to withdraw their support.
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