(Bloomberg) -- Binance.US added four lawyers from Milbank LLP, including a former co-director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division, George Canellos, as the beleaguered crypto platform prepares its defense against US allegations of operating an illegal securities exchange.
Canellos, who is global head of the litigation and arbitration group at Milbank, previously supervised about 1,300 attorneys at the SEC on investigations including the insider trading actions against Raj Rajaratnam and hedge fund managers associated with S.A.C. Capital. Before then, he was chief of the major crimes unit at the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.
The SEC sued Binance.US, the global Binance exchange and Changpeng Zhao, who owns both, on June 5 for securities violations. In a suit filed with the District Court in the District of Columbia, the SEC alleged “blatant disregard” of US securities laws, including mishandling customer funds and misleading investors and regulators. Last week, the agency filed an emergency action application for a temporary restraining order to freeze Binance.US’s assets in an attempt to protect customer funds, including through repatriation of client investments held abroad. Binance has disputed the allegations.
“Canellos possesses a rare and remarkably special combination of skill sets — having served as both an SEC prosecutor and a DOJ prosecutor. Think Liam Neeson meets Perry Mason,” John Reed Stark, former head of SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement, said in a tweet.
Canellos and Binance.US didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Three other attorneys from Milbank are joining Binance.US’s defense team as well. Adam Fee spent more than five years as an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York’s criminal division, where he was a member of the terrorism and international narcotics unit. Matthew Laroche spent nearly seven years as an assistant US attorney in the same division, where he prosecuted cases involving cybercrime, espionage, financial corruption, money laundering, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Foreign Agents Registration Act, according to his bio. The team also includes Andrew LeBlanc, who focuses on contested issues arising in bankruptcy cases.
Binance.US said its payment and banking partners had signaled an intent to pause support for its dollar channels on the platform as early as June 13. That means it won’t be able to process deposits and withdrawals in dollars on the US-focused platform, instead shifting to an all-crypto exchange.
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