Changpeng Zhao, the CEO of Binance, filed a defamation lawsuit against Modern Media CL., the publisher of Bloomberg Businessweek in Hong Kong, on Monday. The lawsuit stemmed from a title of a translated article in Chinese that claimed Zhao was the head of a “ponzi scheme.”
The lawsuit is related to Zhao’s profile in Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Can Crypto’s Richest Man Stand the Cold?” from June 23.
But in Hong Kong, Businessweek’s local publisher Modern Media CL used a different headline with the intention of inciting “hatred, contempt, and ridicule” for Zhao Changpeng, the world’s richest crypto billionaire: “Zhao Changpeng’s Ponzi Scheme,” according to Zhao’s representative.
Zhao demanded a retraction, a restraining order to prevent the defendants from spreading the portrayal further, and the removal of the edition from newsstands; Modern Media has already partially complied with Zhao’s demands. With regard to “defamatory allegations” in the profile article, he separately filed a motion for discovery against Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Zhao objected to the article’s description of Binance as “sketchy” and an unnamed trader’s characterization of Binance as a “massive shitcoin casino.” According to the motion, these assertions “were obviously designed to mislead readers into believing that Zhao was breaking the law.”
The dual legal actions continue Zhao’s aggressive image protection strategy for Binance. Binance sued Forbes in 2020 over allegedly defamatory statements but dropped the suit last year. (It later made a strategic investment in Forbes that was tied to a flopped SPAC deal). Zhao sued venture capital firm Sequoia on defamation claims in 2019.
The U.S. court filings underscore the extent to which Binance closely protects its perception. It recounts a back-and-forth between legal teams that resulted in Modern Media scrubbing the Ponzi headline and pulling the physical copy from print earlier this month. But “various online websites” were still selling the print edition, the filing states, prompting Zhao to go to court.