Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency plan just got formalised, but a quarter of its backers have now dropped out
- Facebook took a major step towards formalising its cryptocurrency Libra on Monday, formally establishing which companies and individuals will govern the currency and its infrastructure as part of the non-profit Libra Association.
- Libra doesn't actually exist yet as a currency, but Monday's announcement is a signal to the outside world that there's some sort of framework and oversight.
- But the announcement was overshadowed by news this week that a quarter of the companies who initially backed Libra had dropped out, including Visa, Mastercard, and Stripe.
- Facebook put a brave face on the muddle, with its Libra chief David Marcus announcing that the appointments were "energizing."
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Facebook took a major step on Monday towards formalising its planned cryptocurrency Libra, establishing a council of 21 firms committed to launching and overseeing the currency - a move overshadowed by more than half a dozen of its initial partners dropping out.
The changes mean that Libra now has a more formal, layered governance structure that Facebook can point to if quizzed about the currency by regulators. It also means that the Silicon Valley social networking giant won't be the sole "face" of Libra - it is, theoretically, just one seat at the table.
The Libra Association, the collective of firms interested in building and supporting the digital currency, now officially has 21 members, including Facebook, Spotify, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Lyft, and Uber. On Monday, those 21 firms signed a charter and assigned a representative to the association's governing council, called the Libra Association Council. That council also voted in a board of five representatives, including Facebook's Libra mastermind David Marcus.
The announcement should be a vote of confidence in Libra, but it came amid a slew of negative headlines for the project, with a quarter of the Libra Association's planned members dropping out, and regulators and lawmakers closely scrutinising the project.
There were originally 28 members of the association, but over the last few weeks seven backers - including Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, and Booking Holdings - withdrew their support for the cryptocurrency.
It also looks like the cryptocurrency won't necessarily be ready for its intended launch date at the end of 2020.
Dante Disparte, Libra's newly appointed deputy chairman, told The Financial Times on Monday that regulatory hurdles would probably delay the launch. "We need to make sure we pursue the right licensing approvals, and that is the part that may not be ready in time," he said.
David Marcus, the Facebook exec overseeing the launch, put a brave face on the setbacks.
"Awesome day today at our inaugural Libra Association member council!" he wrote on Twitter. "It was energizing to see reps from many different industries, and interests come together with one mission at heart, improve access and lower costs to digital money and financial services for everyone."
1/ Awesome day today at our inaugural Libra Association member council! It was energizing to see reps from many different industries, and interests come together with one mission at heart, improve access and lower costs to digital money and financial services for everyone.— David Marcus (@davidmarcus) October 14, 2019
Earlier in the week, Marcus had tried to downplay the exit of Visa, Mastercard, and Libra's other partners.
He wrote on Friday: "I would caution against reading the fate of Libra into this update. Of course, it's not great news in the short term, but in a way it's liberating. Stay tuned for more very soon. Change of this magnitude is hard. You know you're on to something when so much pressure builds up."
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