Binance CEO Zhao brushes off $2.1 billion FTX clawback concerns

Key Points
  • Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao dismissed concerns over whether Binance could handle a potential $2.1 billion clawback of proceeds from an FTX divestment on an appearance with CNBC's Squawk Box.
  • Zhao was an early investor in FTX and in disgraced founder Sam Bankman-Fried, but their relationship had chilled as FTX gained market share and grew more competitive.
  • Binance divested its stake in FTX well before bankruptcy.
Watch CNBC's full interview with Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao
Watch CNBC's full interview with Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao

Binance Chief Executive Changpeng "CZ" Zhao dismissed concerns that his company could have $2.1 billion clawed back as a result of FTX's bankruptcy proceedings, in an appearance Thursday morning on CNBC's "Squawk Box," and said he trusted his lawyers to handle the proceedings.

CNBC'S Andrew Ross Sorkin and Becky Quick pressed Zhao on whether he expected to be able to return that $2.1 billion payment from FTX, which Binance earned when it exited its 2019 Series A investment with FTX, to bankruptcy trustees who will be looking to claw back any fraudulent conveyances made by FTX to outside businesses or investors.

"Would you be able to handle it if somebody asked you for $2.1 billion back," Quick asked him.

"We are financially OK," Zhao said, evading a straight answer.

FTX's collapse is shaking crypto to its core. The pain may not be over
FTX's collapse is shaking crypto to its core. The pain may not be over

If bankruptcy proceedings can establish that a payment was made through proceedings of fraud or that an individual should have reasonably known that a payment was fraudulent, any beneficiary in a two-year lookback window can have their gains clawed back by the trustee, according to the U.S. bankruptcy code.

"Are you prepared to send that money to them?" Sorkin asked Zhao.

"I think we'll leave that to the lawyers. I think our legal team is perfectly capable of handling it," Zhao responded before attempting to pivot away to FTX's well-documented spending habits.

Zhao told Sorkin that the repayment was a combination of BUSD, BNB and FTT tokens. Zhao claimed that the FTT portion of the repayment was significant but that the company had "forgotten" about it.

"We have very solid revenue," Zhao said.

Lawyers for FTX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.