Facebook Steps Up Libra Lobbying Even As It Faces Uphill Battles On Other Fronts

Facebook is stepping up its lobbying game for Libra in the nation’s capital. According to a report in Politico, the social media behemoth has hired two pro Washington lobbyists and a law firm to convince lawmakers about its cryptocurrency and blockchain.

The company has hired Sternhell Group and Cypress Group to lobby lawmakers. The former counts the likes of Citigroup Inc. and investment firm PIMCO among its clients while the latter has Ethereum venture studio ConsenSys Inc. and Goldman Sachs in its client roster.

Other firms already working on behalf of Facebook for Libra are Baker Hostetler and OB-C Group. The report also quotes a lobbyist as saying that the main focus of their efforts is education and “…making people aware of what it (Libra) is and the rollout and just getting people comfortable with the idea.”

An Uphill Battle

Facebook faces an uphill battle in its latest venture. Senate and Congressional leaders grilled Libra chief David Marcus on successive days earlier this month. The tone of questioning was mostly hostile and Marcus was unable to provide a clear answer to their questions.

Considering the proposed scope of Libra’s operations, Facebook’s regulatory problems are bound to multiply in the future. Governments in the European Union are already echoing the US stance and have called on for a careful evaluation of the project. Switzerland’s data and privacy watchdog yesterday issued a press release stating Facebook still hasn’t responded to its request for more information.

Facebook is facing problems in other markets as well. India, which has one of the biggest underbanked populations in the world, has severely restricted the trading of cryptocurrencies by prohibiting their use in banking transactions. Based on earlier reports, Libra itself might run afoul of current legal requirements.  

Visa CEO Denies Joining Libra Association

In a related development, Visa CEO Alfred E. Kelly Jr. told analysts that the company’s earnings call that they have not officially joined Libra Association, Facebook’s governance consortium for its blockchain.

“So, we have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to join Libra. We’re one of – I think it’s 27 companies that have expressed that interest. So, no one has yet officially joined,” he said, adding that their commitment to join was dependent on several factors, including Facebook’s ability to handle regulatory requirements around the world. Kelly Jr. also said that he believed the payments processor could be “additive and helpful in the association.” He said that “it’s really, really early days” for Libra.

A New York Times story had already previously reported on this development.