This week, Binance and its CEO, Changpeng Zhao, acknowledged breaches of anti-money laundering and U.S. sanctions laws.
As part of a settlement with the Justice and Treasury Departments and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Zhao will step down as CEO, contributing $50 million to the resolution in addition to Binance’s $4.3 billion payment.
This development comes just a week after famous investor Kevin O’Leary predicted to Benzinga that Binance would soon follow FTX. In a follow-up conversation on Tuesday, O’Leary expressed his lack of surprise, highlighting the remaining challenge due to Zhao’s continued role as a shareholder.
“If you’re an institution, you can’t go to FTX and Binance. You can’t even go to Coinbase because of its litigation with the SEC.”
Despite the scarcity of fully compliant alternatives, O’Leary identified the relatively lesser-known M2 Exchange as a top choice. M2 was recently granted the ability to offer custody and multilateral trading services in the UAE, which caught his attention.
“Abu Dhabi is the capital of capital, and I think something big is about to happen there,” O’Leary said. “I’m leaving soon for the launch of M2, and I think it will take up huge capital. I don’t know if you have a bigger [exchange] emerging that’s completely compliant.”
While some places in the U.S. may grow as capital centers given better policies and diversity of talent, O’Leary isn’t shying away from opportunities abroad.
“In 2010, I left Massachusetts for Florida, and it’s good to see competition building among states like Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.”
“However, so much is happening in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. If you’re a global investor like me, don’t ignore that. You put in an allocation.”
Further supporting O’Leary’s decisions are the frameworks provided by the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and the competitiveness of high-growth companies offered for sale on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX). O’Leary pointed to the Phoenix Group, whose massively oversubscribed ADX IPO he plans to participate in.
“They are one of the largest data center operators and builders in the world, as well as one of the largest Bitcoin miners in the world. They have a long track record of building facilities, and that’s why there’s so much interest in their IPO.”
What Comes After Crypto Cowboys?
“I think the last crypto cowboy rode off into the sunset,” O’Leary said, noting litigation and legislation were top of mind this year. “People didn’t respect the regulator, and they’ve learned a lesson. The financial system works in a regulated environment.”
Regarding crypto exposure, O’Leary expressed disinterest in spot Bitcoin ETFs. Instead, he leans towards acquiring direct exposure to tokens and private equity, indicating a readiness to maintain investments for up to 10 years. This approach aligns with his anticipation of digital payment systems evolving into a sector within the S&P 500 over that period.
“I don’t think the ETF will be an institutional product. Suppose you can get a good, compliant exchange. In that case, you may as well own the Bitcoin and avoid the fees,” he said. “The other problem is that the remaining exchanges are in litigation with the SEC. No institution will touch that. You need that very liquid exchange if you’re trying to create ETF units.”
Produced in association with Benzinga
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