By Tom Wilson and Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook met British finance ministry, central bank and regulatory officials in the weeks before making public its plans for the Libra digital currency, responses to Reuters freedom of information requests show.
The details of the meetings suggest a concerted effort by the world’s biggest social network to try to win support for its plans ahead of the June 18 unveiling of Libra, a cryptocurrency that will be backed by major currencies and other assets.
Despite this, Libra has drawn a sceptical response from regulators and politicians in Europe and the United States, with concerns centring on its potential to upend the world financial system, harm privacy and foster money laundering.
The head of the Bank of England is among those who have warned that Libra could pose risks to the financial system and should therefore face high regulatory hurdles. Britain’s top financial regulator has also said more information was needed for Libra to get the go-ahead.
Facebook met a junior minister and officials in charge of cryptocurrency policy at Britain’s finance ministry on April 23. A day later, it met the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to discuss Libra, according to meeting schedules released by the finance ministry and the watchdog.
The following month, on May 14, Facebook met officials from the finance ministry, Bank of England and FCA about Libra, the replies to Reuters requests show.
The authorities posed five questions to the company ahead of the meeting, redacted in emails requested by Reuters.
Facebook and the Geneva-based Libra Association declined to comment on the meetings. As it announced the project, due for launch in 2020, Facebook said it had met regulators and officials in the United States and abroad.
“Engaging with regulators, policymakers, and experts is critical to Libra’s success,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “This was the whole reason that Facebook along with other members of the Libra Association shared our plans early.”
Facebook declined to comment on whether it planned to seek regulation for Libra in Britain. The Libra Association said last week it planned to apply to become a licensed payments system in Switzerland.
A spokesman for Britain’s finance ministry declined to comment on Libra. The ministry wants Britain to harness the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies while maintaining market transparency, protections and standards, he said.
(Reporting by Tom Wilson and Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)