Steven Lee, Paul Kisslinger Speak With Law360 For Article on $4.3 Billion Plea Deal

Atlanta, Ga. (November 27, 2023) – Atlanta/Savannah Partner Steven Lee and Washington, D.C. Partner Paul Kisslinger recently spoke with Law360 for an article titled, “Despite $4.3B Plea, SEC Proceedings Still Loom Over Binance,” which discusses the plea deal that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Binance Holdings Ltd. reached, as well as the legal challenges that the company still faces. 

As the article explains, the DOJ recently entered into a “historic” $4.3 billion plea deal with Binance – the largest crypto platform in the world. The article points out, however, that the company is still facing a lawsuit that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed. The suit relates to the manner in which Binance handled its customers' assets. 

Mr. Lee told Law360 that the SEC’s absence from the plea deal could indicate that the agency is making a "strategic decision" to litigate its civil case against Binance and its founder, Changpeng Zhao, in court. He explained, “Ultimately, if the SEC succeeds, the courts would define cryptocurrency as a security, which would give the government more teeth in enforcing cases against crypto exchanges." Mr. Kisslinger agreed with Mr. Lee’s assessment, pointing out that the SEC would like to "go deeper and really get into the core issue of whether crypto is a security."  

In addition, Mr. Lee described that Binance and Zhao’s admissions in the DOJ settlement could strengthen the SEC’s case because there are certain areas of overlap between the two matters, including allegations that Binance and Zhao lied to regulators. "The court can only accept a plea agreement if there's a factual basis for it," Mr. Lee explained, adding, "So the SEC could theoretically use whatever facts Zhao agrees to in the case against him." 

Mr. Lee serves as vice chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Government Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice. As a former federal prosecutor, he focuses his practice on government and internal corporate investigations as well as complex litigation matters. Mr. Lee represents corporations, top executives, and officers, regularly limiting their exposure in federal white collar civil and criminal investigations. 

Mr. Kisslinger serves as chair of Lewis Brisbois’ SEC Enforcement & Litigation Practice and as co-chair of the firm's Securities Class Action Defense Practice. Prior to joining Lewis Brisbois, he spent almost two decades with the SEC – most recently as its assistant chief litigation counsel. Mr. Kisslinger successfully guides clients through the choppy waters of regulatory enforcement actions, internal and external investigations, and legislative inquiries. 

Read the full Law360 article here (subscription may be required). 

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