- Binance exec suggests insider trading played role in Ronin's moves this week.
- Blockchain's RON token plunged 25% after listing on Binance.
- Yi He pledges bounties starting at $10,000 to whistleblowers.
Following dramatic trading activity in the Ronin token this week, Binance co-founder Yi He warned the exchange’s employees on Tuesday to not disclose information about upcoming listings.
“If there is any information leaked about a project for any reason, you will be warned once and then fired,” she said in Mandarin in an X post on February 6.
Ronin’s RON token surged 17% in a 24 period beginning February 4, and then plunged 25% following its listing on Binance the next day. The pattern suggested some investors may have had inside knowledge of the pending listing.
Yi He appeared to believe this was the case. In her tweets, she said listings will be cancelled if it appears that information was leaked and encouraged employees to come forward and disclose information in such an event.
“We welcome reports involving currency listings and other corruption,” she said. “If you prove that a Binance team member is corrupt, we will keep your identity confidential and provide you with a security vulnerability bonus of US$10,000 to US$5 million.”
Using social media to issue such warnings to company employees is unusual, to say the least. Typically, company officers will send messages of this nature internally.
Yet Binance, which paid $4.3 billion in penalties after pleading guilty to violating US banking law in November, is operating under intense regulatory scrutiny. The exchange is obliged to appoint an independent monitor to supervise its anti-money laundering practices and systems.
‘Major funds are welcome to contact Binance for background checks before making an offer.’— Yi He
Moreover, co-founder and former CEO Changpeng Zhao is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23 in the US after pleading guilty in November for failing to comply with anti-money laundering laws.
Yi He,Binance’s head of customer service and Binance Labs, its venture arm, had kept a low profile since the guilty pleas. The action around Ronin’s listing on the world’s top crypto exchange changed that.
Ronin, a so-called layer 1 blockchain, was originally designed to be a low-cost alternative to Ethereum. It was also the home of the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity.
In March 2022, the Lazarus Group, a North Korean hacking outfit, plundered $624 million from the Ronin cross-chain bridge. No surprise its RON token plunged in value.
Then in October, RON went on a tear after the launch of new games such as Pixels brought a fresh wave of users to Ronin. The value of the token multiplied more than seven times, and RON sported a market capitalisation of $974 million by February 5, according to CoinMarketCap data.
Leakage of listing information
When Binance listed the token the next day it fell sharply in price, which was strange. Usually, a listing on a major exchange buoys a token by imbuing it with credibility and making it more liquid.
With RON losing a quarter of its value following its arrival on Binance, Yi He suspected that investors may have used inside information to front run the listing.
In her tweets about RON, He warned about a “leakage of cryptocurrency listing information.” She did not say that Binance insiders or their associates traded on the information.
She also warned projects not to hire former “corrupt employees” from Binance or they risked being blacklisted by the exchange.
“Major funds are welcome to contact Binance for background checks before making an offer,” she said.
Trading on inside information has come up before in crypto.
Last May, Ishan Wahi, a former product manager at Coinbase, was sentenced to two years in prison by a US court for providing inside tips on token listings to his brother and friend.
And last August, Nathanial Chastain, a former head of product at OpenSea, was sentenced to a three-month prison term in connection with a scheme to profit from knowing which NFTs would be featured on the marketplace’s website.