- The SEC launched a legal assault against Binance and its U.S. affiliate last week.
- As the legal battle enters high gear, Binance.US has made new legal hires.
- The unique skill sets of the members of the new team promise to give the exchange a boost.
On June 5, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission compounded Binance’s legal troubles by launching an enforcement action against the exchange, its U.S. affiliates, and its founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao.
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As the legal battle heats up, the U.S. arm of the crypto exchange has bolstered its legal team with four new hires from Milbank LLP, an international law firm focused on complex, high-profile cases.
These hires have, unsurprisingly, turned heads due to their extensive and unique experience, with one particular group member once serving as the co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division.
A Star-Studded Team
Per court filings on Monday, June 12, the new Binance.US lawyers include George Canellos, Adam Fee, Matthew Laroche, and Andrew Leblanc.
For many, the most notable new addition to the defense team is Canellos, who once served as co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division from 2009 to 2014, serving as chief of the major crimes unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York before that.
Former SEC Internet enforcement Chief John Reed Stark recently described Canellos as a “uniquely qualified criminal defense all-star lawyer,” adding that his background afforded him a “rare and remarkably special combination of skillsets.”
At Milbank, the lawyer leads the Litigation and Arbitration Group, often focusing on cases involving compliance with securities laws.
The other members of this new group of hires are no slouches, either. Adam Fee is a former federal prosecutor who spent half a decade in the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. According to his biography page on Milbank’s website, Fee has advised several firms on complex matters involving cybersecurity, data privacy, and cryptocurrency regulation and enforcement.
Like Fee, Matthew Laroche also worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York before switching to private practice at Milbank, spending seven years in the criminal division. Per his Milbank biography page, Laroche’s specialties include regulatory investigations.
The final addition to the team is Andrew Leblanc, a bankruptcy specialist who has held on to Benchmark Litigation’s “Bankruptcy Lawyer of the Year” award for the past five years.
The SEC complaint against Binance alleges that the crypto exchange intentionally skirted U.S. securities laws, mishandled customer deposits, and engaged in wash trading to prop up its valuation. Binance lawyers have pushed back against these accusations in recent filings.
Before these recent hires, Binance.US already employed the services of William McLucas, who served as director of the SEC’s enforcement division for eight years—the longest-serving director in the division’s history.
On the Flipside
- Regardless of the quality of the lawyers, the facts of the case will likely be the ultimate deciding factor.
Why This Matters
Binance.US’s recent legal hires have unique skill sets that will likely be useful in its legal battle with the SEC. It also signals that the crypto exchange is taking the case seriously and is sparing no expense.
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