In brief

  • The Libra Association has appointed its first CEO.
  • He's called Stuart Levey, and he's currently the Chief Legal Officer of HSBC.
  • Libra has courted controversy from regulators.

The Libra Association, the controversial stablecoin project led by Facebook, has hired Stuart Levey as its first CEO.

Levey will assume the position this summer. He is currently the Chief Legal Officer of HSBC and was formerly the first Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence—a position he held during both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Levey will inherit a formidable challenge. The Libra stablecoin, which was originally backed by a basket of fiat currencies, the exact make-up of which would be determined by the private companies that comprise the Libra Association, has been widely condemned by regulators. Many have vowed to block the development of Libra on their soil.

The response from regulators has been so disruptive for the yet-to-even-launch project that of the 28 companies that expressed intent on joining the Association upon its announcement in July 2019, eight have dropped out, among them eBay, Visa, Mastercard. Visa said it would only consider joining the Association once it had “fully satisf[ied] all requisite regulatory expectations.”

Katie Haun, a general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that has joined the Libra Association, who was responsible for sourcing Levey, said she found in the incoming CEO “the rare combination of an accomplished leader in both the government, where he enjoyed bipartisan respect and influence, and the private sector.” 

She said Levey will “bring a wealth of knowledge in banking, finance, regulatory policy and national security to the Association and strike the right balance between innovation and regulation.” 

Levey’s first job will be to launch Libra. The Association previously said it planned to launch Libra in the second half of 2020, and it currently remains committed to that goal. Levey will also assume responsibility for the production of the stablecoin, whose designs were recently revised.

According to a whitepaper issued last month, the Libra Association will now provide stablecoins for major fiat currency, such as the US dollar, the British pound, and the euro. The Libra coin will now be backed by a basket of fiat-backed stablecoins, rather than by fiat itself. 

Should Levey manage to launch the stablecoin, that might go a long way in silencing at least some of Libra’s critics.