A coalition of consumer advocacy groups has urged the 28 member companies of the Libra Association to quit the Facebook-led cryptocurrency project en masse.
“We call upon you as respected members of the business, financial, technology, and civil society communities to collectively withdraw from the Libra project,” says the open letter signed by Open Markets Institute, Public Citizen, Revolving Door Project, and Demand Progress Education Fund.
While the advocates said they agree with the Geneva-based consortium’s purported aim to extend financial services to the 1.7 billion global underbanked, they cautioned:
Achieving a laudable goal should not be cheapened with a project whose aims are in fact unclear and whose leadership structure is based on fear.
The alleged “fear” they refer to stems from Facebook’s clout, given the social network’s vast userbase. The letter quotes Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who said during Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing:
“Members of the consortium actually have lots of questions too, similar to the questions that are being offered on this dais and they have great reservations about moving forward but they don’t want to be left out because of Facebook’s market power.”
Don’t fear the Libra
The advocates implored Libra’s members (which include Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Uber) not to be cowed by their ringleader, saying:
“We understand that Facebook is a powerful company, and that it has in part generated a climate of fear with its market dominance. But if you collectively withdraw from the project, it will signal that the just-beginning era of digital money will be based on fair rules and democratic deliberation, and not intimidation by the powerful.”
The groups also cite Libra’s “potential to facilitate money laundering, terrorist financing, bank runs, systemic risk, evasion of sanctions, and anti-competitive activity” as reasons to ditch it.
Among the letter’s four signatories, Public Citizen has been particularly vocal in opposition to Facebook’s plans to launch a global currency.
Its president, Robert Weissman, called Libra a “cartel” in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday, and the group earlier called on Congress to halt the project.
Robert Weissman image via House Financial Services Committee