Tomorrow starts what David Marcus, head of Calibra, the crypto wallet subsidiary of Facebook, believes will be the “broadest, most extensive and most careful pre-launch oversight by regulators and central banks in fintech’s history.” It might also start an epic grilling by a cantankerous U.S. Congress that seems united by only one thing these days: Its total contempt for Facebook.
At 10 am ET, Marcus will testify before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, as part of a hearing on the Libra project. The hearing will be livestreamed here.
Facebook released the white paper for the Libra project in mid-June, outlining a stablecoin it hopes will be used as a low-cost method for routing payments across the globe, especially among the un- and underbanked.
Marcus’ testimony was published ahead of the hearing and covers, at a high level, what the project hopes to achieve, the structure and management of Libra and Calibra, and its implications.
“I believe that if America does not lead innovation in the digital currency and payments area, others will,” he’s planning to testify. “If we fail to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values are dramatically different.”
While Facebook declined to comment today on who these “others” could be, China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China is said to be ramping up its work creating its own digital currency after Facebook announced Libra.
Still it’s a bold statement from a company that many people argue isn’t one they’d like to see controlling billions of people’s financial services. Indeed, the company recently agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine in connection with Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which millions of Facebook users’ personal information was harvested without their permission, and used for political advertising.\
While Facebook has been everyone’s favorite big data boogey man for some time, this scandal seemed to solidify Congress’s apprehension and concern about the social media platform’s influence and motives.
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Stephen Palley, an attorney with Anderson Kill, probably said it best via Twitter:
”The Libra hearings will be the only bipartisan display in Washington anytime soon because everyone hates [Facebook].”
But while there’s definitely hostility towards Facebook, there’s also immense interest in the company and the Libra project.
As such, though Senators can come and go throughout the hearing, Pat Lally, the staff assistant for the banking committee, told Decrypt, “I’m sure many [Senators] will be there because there’s a lot of public interest in this.”
The U.S. House Financial Services Committee will host a hearing on Libra the day after the Senate hearing on July 17.