By Michelle Price
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc <FB.O>, whose digital currency project Libra has been abandoned by several high-profile partners including PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, still expects to get 100 banks and financial firms on board once it addresses regulatory concerns, the head of the project said on Wednesday.
“It will take time for us to address all of the regulatory concerns that were raised and it’s our duty and our responsibility to come with answers to all of these questions,” head of Libra David Marcus told a panel at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference in Washington.
“I think once we’ve done this then I think we’ll see more banks and traditional financial services firms join the effort,” Marcus said, adding it was harder for large, regulated financial firms to “take an active part in this fight right now, given the climate and the pressure.”
Facebook’s ambitious efforts to establish a global digital currency have suffered severe setbacks in recent days. Other key members to pull out included Stripe, eBay Inc <EBAY.O> and Booking Holdings Inc <BKNG.O>. PayPal Holdings Inc <PYPL.O> said it was leaving earlier this month.
The exodus followed intense scepticism from global policymakers and regulators in the United States and Europe who worry Libra could upend the global financial system, threaten users’ privacy and facilitate money laundering.
Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard reiterated those concerns on Wednesday, saying at a separate event in Washington that the Libra project “must address a core set of legal and regulatory challenges” before it can go live.
Facebook is left without the backing of any major payments firms for the project, due to launch by June 2020.
Speaking at the IMF event, Marcus said around 1,600 entities globally had initially expressed an interest in joining the project and that Libra should have “no problem” reaching its goal of launching with 100 members.
On Monday, the Libra Association’s 21 remaining members forged ahead, holding their inaugural meeting in Geneva and selecting a five-member board.
Marcus said it was now in Libra’s hands to run a process to select more members. He added that Libra also needed time to build up its staff to address the regulatory issues, rather than Facebook “carrying that flag.”
(Reporting by Michelle Price; editing by David Evans and David Gregorio)