Libra Cryptocurrency Launch ‘May Be Delayed’ Over Regulatory Concerns

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Head of Libra Association says group’s priority is to make sure regulators are ‘fully on board’ and emphasises currency’s independence from Facebook

The launch of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency may be delayed due to regulatory concerns, the head of the Libra Association, set up to govern the currency’s future, has said.

Libra was announced last June with a launch date of June 2020, but Bertrand Perez, the head of the Geneva-based association, said making regulators “comfortable” took top priority.

A number of regulators and governments have taken issue with Libra over concerns including data protection and money-laundering, with countries including France and Germany pledging to block Libra from operating in Europe.

Meanwhile, banks have criticised Facebook for failing to work with regulators before, rather than after, announcing the project.

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Questions

Perez said the project could be pushed back, adding that a delay of one or two quarters would not present a problem.

“When we (made) the announcement in June, that was our North Star,” Perez said in reference to the June 2020 launch date, in an interview with Reuters in Geneva.

“What is important is that we need to comply with the regulators and we need to make sure that they are on board with us and fully comfortable with our solutions.”

He said the association had always been aware it would “have to answer lots of questions” from regulators.

Perez emphasised Libra’s independence from Facebook, saying that although the project was “incubated” at the social media company it was intended from early on as “a public good not controlled by a single entity”.

Nevertheless, Facebook has said it plans to integrate Libra into its communications applications and to offer users a digital wallet called Calibra, developed by Facebook itself, moves that give the company a certain amount of de-facto influence over the currency and how it is used.

Timeline

Perez’s comments come after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sidestepped questions about the 2020 launch date, saying in an interview with Nikkei late last week only that the company wanted to “move forward at some point soon” and “not have this take many years to roll out”.

He said the company’s priority was rather to “work through the issues before rolling (Libra) out”.

“A lot of people have had questions and concerns, and we’re committed to making sure that we work through all of those before moving forward,” Zuckerberg said.

But David Marcus, the executive leading the Libra project at Facebook, told Swiss newspaper NZZ earlier this month that “the goal is still to launch Libra next year”.

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