Changpeng "CZ" Zhao, CEO of gargantuan cryptocurrency exchange Binance, still insists that his company has no headquarters. His explanation came during an interview with Decrypt editor in chief Daniel Roberts during this year’s Ethereal Virtual Summit.
“Everybody’s definition of a headquarters of a company is slightly different,” CZ said. “When you ask how you define a headquarters—is that an office where people sit? I worked from home for the last three and a half years. Our leadership team are not sitting in one office, we don't have a clear place where we can go, by most people's normal definitions of a headquarters that we can call a headquarters. So when people ask me, I don't want to give them a wrong answer just to satisfy their definition."
Of course, there is no controversy about the definition of a company’s headquarters. A company’s headquarters are its main business offices, typically legally registered as the address from which the business is run.
CZ added that when people think about their traditional idea of a company, “They think about a headquarters, an office, a bank account, a registration, et cetera. But today you can run organizations with probably none of those.”
Crypto and non-crypto folk alike have long been curious to know where Binance’s headquarters are, because it would provide a window into the crypto exchange’s regulatory status—a subject that, to date, remains murky.
Binance’s regulatory history
The crypto exchange has had a challenging relationship with regulators in its history.
In 2017, Binance left China, setting up shop in Japan and Taiwan, before heading to Malta—a jurisdiction well known for its lax crypto regulations.
But last year, Malta clarified that Binance is not licensed to operate in Malta. Five months after that, the Malaysia Securities Commission alleged that Binance was operating illegally in the country. At the time, Binance support staff told Decrypt that Binance operations were running just fine in Malaysia.
In 2017, the same year Binance left China, the crypto exchange registered Binance Holdings Limited in Georgetown, Cayman Islands. A corporate linkage document previously seen by Decrypt shows the Cayman Islands as Binance’s headquarters. What’s more, Binance has previously used this address to register several trademarks of the Binance name and logo.
In 2019, Binance also registered the Binance Investments Company in the Seychelles.
It all amounts to a lingering question: Where is this giant crypto company based?
Today, Binance US—the crypto exchange’s marketplace registered in several American states—is in the midst of a confrontation with the US Commodity Trading Futures Commission (CTFC). The CTFC launched an investigation into Binance for allegedly allowing American traders to place trades that violate existing US regulations. When Decrypt asked CZ to comment on this investigation last month, he declined.