Lawyers for Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao have made a surprising claim about SEC chair Gary Gensler, who is currently suing the crypto exchange for multiple violations. They say that Gensler, who was then a professor at MIT, offered to be an informal advisor to Binance in 2019 and even shared his congressional testimony with Zhao before a hearing.
According to documents filed by the SEC on Wednesday, Binance’s lawyers from Gibson Dunn and Latham & Watkins say that Gensler had several conversations with Binance executives and Zhao in March 2019, and expressed his interest in serving as an advisor to the exchange. He also met Zhao for lunch in Japan later that month.
The lawyers say that Zhao kept in touch with Gensler after the meeting, and agreed to do an interview with him for a cryptocurrency course he was teaching at MIT. They also say that Gensler sent Zhao a copy of his planned testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in 2019, at his request
Gensler, who became the head of the SEC in 2021, has been cracking down on the crypto industry over the past year, accusing many companies of selling unregistered securities. On Monday, the SEC filed 13 charges against Binance and Zhao, alleging that the exchange failed to register as an exchange and broker-dealer, improperly mixed funds, and lacked adequate internal controls over its operations.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported on Gensler and Binance’s relationship, citing internal Binance messages and a person close to Gensler. Both suggested that Binance approached Gensler. However, Binance’s lawyers now say that it was Gensler who initiated the contact and wanted to be their advisor.