Coinbase CEO says crypto industry can turn the page after historic Binance settlement


Brian Armstrong, chief executive officer of Coinbase Global Inc., speaks during the Messari Mainnet summit in New York, on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The crypto industry can finally close the chapter on a litany of scandals and problems after Binance was hit with a historic settlement by the U.S. Department of Justice, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said Monday.

“The enforcement action against Binance, that’s allowing us to kind of turn the page on that and hopefully close that chapter of history,” Armstrong said in an interview with CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

“There are many crypto companies that are helping build the crypto economy and change our financial system globally. But many of them are still small startups.”

“I think that regulatory clarity is going to help bring in more investment, especially from institutions,” he added.

Binance was hit by the U.S. Department of Justice with a $4 billion settlement last week, which saw its founder and CEO, Changpeng Zhao, step down and plead guilty to charges of money laundering violations.

The government accused Binance of violating the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act and of breaching sanctions on Iran.

Armstrong pushed back on the suggestion that crypto is mainly used for nefarious purposes such as fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing, a common refrain from financial firms that have avoided jumping into the space due to compliance concerns.

“It’s true that there have been some small amount of illicit activity in crypto but it’s actually less than 1% from what we’ve seen. If you look at illicit uses of cash it’s oftentimes more than that,” Armstrong told CNBC.

Some players, he conceded, have been “bad actors,” referring to the case of Binance, as well as the collapse of crypto exchange FTX and the conviction of its founder Sam Bankman-Fried on charges of fraud.

Armstrong is in the U.K. Monday for the Global Investment Summit, which gathers a host of business leaders to encourage foreign investment in the U.K.

Coinbase was the only crypto company invited to the summit, which Armstrong termed an “endorsement” for the company, but not necessarily the broader industry.

Armstrong said that he is “impressed” with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s leadership when it comes to digital currencies and that Coinbase was investing more in the U.K. as a result.

The U.K. is seeking to bring digital assets such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins into the regulatory fold.

Coinbase is currently engaged in a tense legal battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that the company is violating securities laws with its platform.

On that point, Armstrong said he feels very good about Coinbase’s chances fighting the lawsuit. He also disputed the idea that the SEC’s actions have forced Coinbase to move offshore, adding that the company is still investing actively in its home market.

Correction: Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted on charges of fraud. An earlier version misstated his status.



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