The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seeking "alternative service” from the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to issue a legal summons to Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
Zhao and Binance were recently sued by the SEC over alleged unregistered securities operations.
In a case document filed with the district court on June 7, the SEC requested alternative service. It explained its evident stance that typical service (which requires the presence and signature of the person being served) might prove difficult in this case:
“Binance and Zhao are not the typical foreign entity and individual, as they are widely known for disagreeing with the premise of a headquarters or domicile, let alone identifying one, and Zhao is famously protective of revealing his whereabouts.”
Despite the purported difficulty in serving Zhao, the CEO would likely not be legally required to make a court appearance merely to respond to the summons; however, the courts typically require some form of service to occur even if the defendant isn’t required to appear.
The SEC also asked the court to order Zhao and Binance to promptly provide a “sworn accounting” — essentially a legal disclosure of financial information.
Per the complaint, the SEC has been unable to discern the full extent of the defendants’ assets, the exact whereabouts of investor money, or the status or location of other assets that may be used to satisfy a money judgment against the defendants.
Again, the SEC cited the logistical concerns as mitigating factors. The filing states that the request for a sworn accounting stems from “BAM Trading’s inability to provide accurate information” concerning the whereabouts of Zhao or the company’s “location abroad.”
BAM Trading is the organization that oversees Binance.US in partnership with Binance, a setup meant to allow the company to keep its U.S. operations separate from its other entities.
Zhao’s location remains unknown at the time of publication. He is a Chinese-born Canadian citizen who reportedly bought a home in Dubai in 2021. However, according to Binance spokesperson Dewi Mustajab, as of March 28, 2023, the CEO splits his time between Dubai and France.