Binance saw $800 million in outflows after news broke of Changpeng Zhao’s plea deal. Experts say it could have been much worse



Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies have poured out of Binance over the past day, but experts told Fortune that the outflows are actually lower than many expected after the company and founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors and regulators.

About $800 million worth of Bitcoin, Ether, and the USDT and USDC stablecoins were withdrawn from the crypto exchange after news of the agreement initially broke on Tuesday, according to digital asset data and index provider CCData. The outflows can be explained in part by investors concerned about impending regulatory requirements Binance will be subject to per its agreement with prosecutors, or from institutional investors moving money elsewhere to save face, said CCData research lead Josh de Vos.

While the massive outflows were notable compared with a typical trading day, Binance’s resilience was surprising, de Vos told Fortune. “The level of outflows are probably lower than expected given the news,” he added.

On Tuesday, Binance agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties while Zhao stepped down as CEO and pleaded guilty to a criminal charge. The news rocked the crypto world and sent Binance’s native cryptocurrency, BNB, plummeting before a resurgence. Much the same appears to have happened with the exchange’s outflows. 

Despite the initial spike, the rate of outflows had mostly tempered by Wednesday, according to figures from CCData. But the exchange was still seeing average outflows of between $25 million and $50 million per hour, which could prove an issue if that pace doesn’t taper, de Vos explained.

“If those flows are consistent,” he said, “it could lead to a liquidity problem—or the perception of one, which can still have the same result.”

Breaking down the outflows by coin, CoinMetrics noted that investors withdrew $300 million in Bitcoin alone from the crypto exchange over the past 24 hours. Solutions engineer Parker Merritt said the outflows highlighted some investors’ skittishness, especially in light of what’s happened to FTX.

“We’ve all seen the downside of what can happen when you put full trust into a centralized exchange with FTX,” Merritt added.

Still, Merritt noted, the Bitcoin outflows aren’t even the most ever for Binance: Earlier this month, the exchange recorded Bitcoin outflows of about $1.6 billion that weren’t directly tied to a single news event. And back in May, when the company claimed to be shuffling around its Bitcoin reserves, some $5 billion was withdrawn. Working in the company’s favor is its mostly transparent system for proving reserves and the fact that its agreement with prosecutors was not as draconian as it could have been.

While the multibillion-dollar penalty was a blow for the world’s largest crypto exchange, it will continue to operate, and its former CEO is facing minimal prison time. All things considered, Merritt added, Binance appears to be on track to overcome its latest setback.

“If the U.S. is willing to settle with Binance for any sum of money,” he said, “you know they’re in relatively good regulatory standing following that.”



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