- Most of Facebook’s key partners on its cryptocurrency project Libra are refusing to publicly support it.
- Since announcing Libra in June 2019, there has been intense regulatory pushback on the initiatives.
- Key backers like Mastercard, Uber, and PayPal are ignoring inquiries as to whether they are still committed to Libra.
- Business Insider reached out to the two-dozen-plus Libra Association members, and only two of them agreed to answer questions about their support.
- The lack of public support leaves Facebook isolated on the controversial project, and raises questions as to whether some partners may try to quietly drop out.
In the face of intense regulatory pushback, the overwhelming majority of Facebook’s partners on its Libra cryptocurrency project are refusing to publicly reaffirm their support for the effort.
In June 2019, Facebook announced Libra — a plan for a new digital currency that would help enable online purchases and money transfers, and would be led by a consortium of dozens of different companies via a new non-profit organisation, the Libra Association.
More than two dozen organisations have signed up, including Mastercard, Visa, Uber, Spotify, and Vodafone — but there has since been strong backlash from lawmakers and regulators over Libra. US lawmakers have called on Facebook to impose a moratorium on development, and the European Union is reportedly investigating over antitrust concerns.
Over the last month, Business Insider has reached out repeatedly to the Libra Association founding members, to gauge their reaction to the pushback and see if they remain on board with Libra. Some responded affirmatively, answering questions and shedding new light on the efforts. Some flatly refused to comment, even to confirm that they were still committed to the project. But most simply ignored repeated requests for comment entirely.
The lack of public support leaves Facebook largely isolated in trying to defend Libra, which it has insisted is a group effort.
And it raises questions as to whether some companies, in the face of greater-than-anticipated pushback, may try to quietly drop out of Libra entirely.
The Financial Times also reported on Thursday that two of the founding companies are “concerned about the regulatory pushback and were considering cutting ties.”
Spokespeople for Libra and Facebook did not immediately respond
Two companies enthusiastically engaged with questions about Libra
Just two of the 28 founding organisations in the Libra Association agreed to answer questions about their support for Libra.
A spokesperson for telecom firm Vodafone reaffirmed the project’s mission, saying that “Vodafone strongly believes in financial inclusion and so we remain committed to the Libra Association, helping it to fully address the concerns of lawmakers and regulatory authorities.”
Working groups “to build upon the ideas shared in the white paper [that first announced Libra] are only starting now,” he said, adding that no Libra members will enter a binding commitment or contribute their own funds until the Association’s constitution is ratified, which is yet to happen. Of the pushback, the Vodefane spokesperson said: “Libra is a transformative and disruptive idea which we hope will significantly improve financial inclusion. As such, we expected a healthy level of discourse around the white paper. There are a lot of important details to get right before the launch.”
Humanitarian organisation Mercy Corps also answered questions, saying that they remained committed and welcomed the regulatory scrutiny. “This is a significant new initiative that requires critical questions and broad input from regulators and lawmakers to get right,” a spokesperson said in an email. “We are particularly pleased that much of the conversation has touched on the deep challenges that prevent poor, marginalized and unbanked people from effectively participating in the global economy today. We hope to see more focus on how the current system is failing the needs of so many, and a continued focus on how Libra can and must work to create a system that better serves the needs of the marginalized, unbanked and those living in poverty.”
5 organisations are committed, but unwilling to chat
A handful of other companies said that they were still committed to Libra, but otherwise refused to talk about it.
Spokespeople for fashion company Farfetch, transport firm Lyft, blockchain company Coinbase, and investment firm Andreessen Horowitz all said they were on board — and declined to further comment or answer any questions about the reaction to Libra.
Non-profit group Women’s World Banking said it continued to work with Libra, but did not directly answer questions, instead saying in an email: “Our goal remains consistent — to see that all low-income women have access to and usage of the financial products and services they need to achieve security and prosperity. Being part of the Libra Association allows us to bring the needs of un- and under-served women in emerging markets to the table as the work of the Libra Association gets set up. We see the Libra Association as one additional potential way that we can put financial services in the hands of women who have traditionally been ignored by financial services.”
There is ambiguity around seven
Other companies were ambiguous about the status of their involvement.
Payments firm PayU responded saying “we are progressing this internally,” without explaining what that means, or if they are still committed to Libra.
A spokesperson for finance giant Visa declined to comment or reaffirm the company’s commitment, pointing to its initial blog post announcing its involvement and CEO Alfred Kelly’s remarks on an earnings call in which he said:”It’s really, really early days and there’s just a tremendous amount to be finalized. But obviously, given that we’ve expressed interest, we actually believe we could be additive and helpful in the association.”
Music streaming company Spotify also shared a link to a blog post it published about joining the Libra Association in June, and ignored subsequent inquiries as to whether it is still committed.
Blockchain firm Anchorage flatly refused to comment whatsoever.
When we initially reached out to blockchain company Xapo, a member of the support team expressed the company’s continued support for Libra, writing: “Xapo is a founding member of the Libra Association, bringing technical expertise to safely operate the Libra Network across the globe. We believe that Libra is a significant step towards our vision of digital money for everyone.” However, subsequent follow-up emails seeking confirmation from the official press team were not responded to.
We were unable to find a mutually agreeable time to talk with a spokesperson for non-profit Kiva, so their stance remains unclear. And we could not reach telecoms company Iliad.
13 more members are just refusing to engage
Around half of all the organizations from the initial Libra announcement simply ignored repeated requests for comment.
Finance giant Mastercard, payments firm Mercado Pago, fintech company PayPal, payments platform Stripe, travel company Booking Holdings, online shopping platform Ebay, transportation firm Uber, blockchain company BisonTrails, science program Breakthrough Initiatives, investment firm Ribbit Capital, investment firm Thrive Capital, investment firm Union Square Ventures, and startup program Creative Destruction Lab all ignored multiple messages or emails asking about their continued involvement.
Do you work at Facebook, or a Libra Association member? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.
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