Tech

Libra project will reach 100 members by the time it launches despite dropouts, group executive says

Key Points
  • There are currently no banks among the 21 founding members of the Libra Association.
  • Many of the established payments players who had originally committed to the project, including Visa and Mastercard, have dropped out in recent days.
  • In a CNBC interview Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said some of the companies that left the project "got concerned" they couldn't meet strict regulatory standards.
A visual representation of a cryptocurrency coin on display in front of the logos for Facebook and Libra.
Chesnot | Getty Images

A top executive from the association overseeing Facebook's cryptocurrency project said he is "confident" 100 members will join the group by the time the digital currency launches, despite a recent string of high-profile departures.

In a CNBC phone interview Tuesday, Bertrand Perez, chief operating officer and interim managing director of the Libra Association, said companies including "banking and financial institutions" have expressed interest in joining the digital currency project.

There are currently no banks among the 21 founding members of the Libra Association, and many of the established payments players who had originally committed to the project, including Visa and Mastercard, have dropped out in recent days.

"There's only one Visa, one Mastercard, I will not tell you that we have the equivalent, but I will tell you that we have reputable companies that are also very active in the financial and banking space," Perez said.

Perez did not name any specific companies but said the association would be making announcements about its membership in the coming months. He added the timeline for the launch of libra, which Facebook originally targeted for the first half of next year, could be moved as the group works to comply with regulations.

"With such a big project and the vision that we're having, launching a few quarters later or before makes no real change," he said.

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In a CNBC interview Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said some of the companies that left the project "got concerned" they couldn't meet strict regulatory standards. The libra project has faced intense scrutiny from regulators around the world, who fear it could create risks to financial stability, facilitate money laundering, raise privacy concerns or put sovereign currencies at risk.

"We are aware that we need to answer a lot of questions coming from the regulators and to make them comfortable with the platform and that requires time," Perez said.

The 21 remaining founding members of the Libra Association met Monday in Geneva to elect a board of directors and sign a charter committing to the proposed digital currency called libra. The five-person board includes David Marcus, head of Calibra at Facebook, along with executives from Andreessen Horowitz, fintech start-up PayU, non-profit Kiva Microfunds and blockchain firm Xapo Holdings.

The members also appointed three executive staff members to the Geneva-based Libra Association, including Perez who will act as interim managing director as well as chief operating officer while the group searches for a permanent chief executive.

Facebook first unveiled its proposal for the libra cryptocurrency, the non-profit Libra Association, and its own digital wallet called Calibra in June. In a tweet Monday, Calibra's Marcus touted the goal of improving "access and lower costs to digital money and financial services for everyone."