After serving as the chief executive officer of major cryptocurrency exchange Binance.US for less than four months, Brian Brooks announced Friday he would be stepping down — a move that was greeted with confusion and suspicion from the crypto community.
Citing “differences over strategic direction,” the now-former CEO said he had already resigned his position at Binance’s U.S. arm. Brooks had been leading the crypto exchange since replacing former CEO Catherine Coley on May 1.
Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance — a separate entity from its U.S. arm — said Brooks stepping down would not “impact Binance.US customers in any way.” He explained:
“I remain confident in Binance.US's business and its commitment to serve its customers and innovate [...] As one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States, Binance.US is poised to continue to grow and empower the future of finance.”
However, members of the outspoken crypto community speculated that Brooks’ decision to leave the firm was based on internal knowledge about issues surrounding the global Binance exchange, possibly from regulators or other market forces.
Others connected the timing of his departure to the regulatory backlash facing Binance, which has prompted the exchange to roll back or even cease operations in certain regions. Regulators in Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada have recently issued orders or warnings against Binance for various reasons.
Binance has faced scrutiny even in the United States, with the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service investigating the firm for alleged illegal trading activity. The exchange is reportedly the subject of an investigation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission regarding alleged trades by U.S. customers.
Others speculated that Brooks’ departure may have been connected with his belief that the crypto exchange business is not profitable in the long run. Those comments were made in an interview with Forbes weeks before his resignation.
The general takeaway from that interview, according to Forbes writer Javier Paz, was the “inevitable clash of direction” at Binance.US, likely between Brooks and the board of directors. According to one Twitter user, “It must be awful working against your moral compass.”
Some users reminded that Brooks’ desire to pursue a “strong compliance program” had the full backing of the board just a few months ago:
At the time of writing, Brooks has yet to disclose his career plans. Before joining Binance.US, he served in several high-profile roles at Coinbase and the United States Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
With additional reporting from Turner Wright.