As Facebook continues in the effort to launch its Libra cryptocurrency, the social media giant is likely to rely more heavily on paid lobbyists and the persuasion powers of its senior executives.
Mark Zuckerberg prefers closed-door approach
In a leaked audiotape of a Facebook town hall released by The Verge, the co-founder and CEO of the tech colossus Mark Zuckerberg took a swipe at public hearings on Libra and instead seemed to favor one-on-one engagements with decision-makers.
While acknowledging that Facebook will continue engaging with authorities around the world publicly, the CEO also disclosed in the leaked audiotape that private engagements with decision-makers were more productive.
Zuckerberg also seemed to reason that such private engagements were less likely to generate negative headlines for Facebook. Per Zuckerberg, “private engagement with regulators” is “more substantive and less dramatic:”
And those meetings aren’t being played for the camera, but that’s where a lot of the discussions and details get hashed out on things.
Is Facebook already engaging privately with the powers-that-be?
Since Libra was announced nearly four months ago, Facebook has hired several lobbyists and lobbying firms to curry favor in Washington D.C.
In late August, for instance, the tech giant signed up William Hollier to lobby on matters pertaining to blockchain policy. Notably, Hollier’s other clients include the Independent Community Bankers of America. Visa, one of the founding members of the Libra Association, is also a client.
The lobbyist had also at one time served as an aide to the current chair of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Mike Crapo.
Other lobbyists that Facebook has recruited include Michael Williams, a former managing director of Credit Suisse Securities, John Collins, Coinbase’s ex-policy head, and Susan Zook, who also previously worked for Crapo.
Facebook has also hired lobbying firms such as Cypress Group and Sternhell Group and law firm Davis Pol to work on Libra issues.
Between January and August this year, Facebook has spent approximately $7.5 million on lobbying.
Libra cryptocurrency development can’t wait, won’t wait
As the social media giant has previously indicated, the leaked audio added credence to the fact that Facebook will continue developing Libra even in the face of push back from regulators around the world. During the town hall, Zuckerberg confirmed that there are already tests being conducted in emerging markets. Additionally, Facebook will start testing in more countries before the year ends:
So we have a test going in India. We’re working in Mexico and a bunch of other countries to have this rolled out broadly. The hope is to get that rolled out in a lot of places with existing currencies before the end of this year.
Besides increasing the number of countries where Libra is being tested, Zuckerberg also indicated during the town hall that he expects “100 or more companies” to have joined the Libra Association by the time the cryptocurrency is launched. Currently, that is looking like a tall order as some of the 27 founding members are already getting cold feet.