Binance Spars With U.S. Regulators Over Asset Freeze

The moves against Binance are part of an increasingly aggressive regulatory crackdown on the crypto industry. A day after filing the Binance lawsuit, the S.E.C. also sued Coinbase, the largest U.S. exchange, for dealing in unlicensed securities.

That one-two punch rattled the industry, raising the specter of a yearslong legal battle over the future of crypto in the United States. Scrutiny has increased since November, when the FTX exchange collapsed overnight, leading to criminal charges against its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried.

The effort to freeze Binance’s U.S. assets stands out as one of the S.E.C.’s most aggressive steps so far to rein in the crypto industry. While previous actions have forced smaller crypto firms to pay fines or discontinue certain products, a victory over Binance could drive the world’s largest exchange out of the country entirely, accelerating a growing exodus of companies.

In court filings on Monday, lawyers for Binance’s American arm, Binance.US, argued that the S.E.C.’s proposed asset freeze would prevent the company from paying vendors, employees and suppliers, causing its operations to “quickly grind to a halt.”

“We’re not willing to accept a death penalty eight days into the case,” a lawyer for Binance.US said at the hearing.

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