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Facebook says Libra won’t launch without U.S. approval

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 22, 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy on April 11, 2018. In prepared remarks released Tuesday ahead of a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, Zuckerberg says that Facebook will not be part of launching the new digital currency anywhere in the world without U.S. government approval. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy on April 11, 2018. In prepared remarks released Tuesday ahead of a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, Zuckerberg says that Facebook will not be part of launching the new digital currency anywhere in the world without U.S. government approval. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
By Barbara Ortutay Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg aims to reassure Congress on Wednesday his company won’t try to evade financial regulators as it prepares its planned digital currency Libra.

In prepared remarks released Tuesday ahead of a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Zuckerberg says that Facebook “will not be a part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world unless all U.S. regulators approve it.”

That’s a stronger statement than Facebook official David Marcus made in July, when he said the company will not offer Libra until it has “fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals.” Marcus leads the Libra project at Facebook.

Zuckerberg is trying to defend Libra and alleviate concerns that the currency could sidestep regulators. Analysts say Libra could avoid regulation and launch in countries where it’s not receiving pushback, but this does not appear to be Facebook’s intention.

Instead, Zuckerberg is pushing an optimistic vision of Libra and what it could mean for people around the world who don’t have access to bank accounts.

“The financial industry is stagnant and there is no digital financial architecture to support the innovation we need,” his statement reads. “I believe this problem can be solved, and Libra can help.”

Libra has seen several high-profile defections among other companies that originally supported it, including Visa and MasterCard.

While some critics see those departures as evidence of Libra’s likely failure, U.S. regulators appear to view it as enough of threat that they are considering the possibility of the Federal Reserve launching its own competitor currency.

“At the Federal Reserve, we will continue to analyze the potential benefits and costs of central bank digital currencies, and look forward to learning from other central banks,” Fed Gov. Lael Brainard said in a speech last week.

Zuckerberg’s remarks also play the China card, urging regulators to act quickly.

“While we debate these issues, the rest of the world isn’t waiting. China is moving quickly to launch similar ideas in the coming months,” Zuckerberg says in the statement. Marcus made a similar argument over the summer.

In 2018, when Zuckerberg spent two days testifying before Congress on privacy, competition and a host of other issues, his notes cited competition from China as a reason against breaking up Facebook.

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