Facebook launches Libra Association—and says 180 companies could join
Shrugging off defections by a number of high-profile partners, the Libra Association held its first formal meeting on Monday. The 21 companies that still support the cryptocurrency project formally ratified the Libra Association’s governing documents in Geneva.
Facebook created Libra, but the company hopes Libra will become larger than any single company. Officially, Facebook—via its cryptocurrency subsidiary Calibra—is just one of the association’s 21 members, with each member having equal voting rights.
Facebook has said that it hopes to expand the organization’s membership to more than 100 organizations by the time the Libra payment network launches in 2020.
On Monday, the Libra Association claimed that 1,500 organizations have expressed interest in joining. The group claims that around 180 of those companies meet the Libra Association’s criteria for membership. These criteria vary depending on the type of organization, but factors include a company’s market value (for businesses), the amount of financial deposits (for financial institutions), and annual budget (for non-profits).
The Libra Association is on the prowl for new members after some of its most prominent supporters backed out ahead of Monday’s meeting. The defecting companies were Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Stripe, eBay, and Mercado Pago. Booking Holdings—the parent company of Priceline, Kayak, OpenTable, and other online reservation services, backed out of the Libra Association just before Monday’s meeting.
The 21 members elected a five-member board of directors. Along with Facebook’s David Marcus, the board will include representatives from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, cryptocurrency company Xapo, payment company PayU, and microlending nonprofit Kiva.
PayU is the only conventional payment company to stay in the Libra Association after the departure of better-known payment providers like Visa and Mastercard. Libra is going to need to interface with the conventional financial system, and that will be a lot easier with the active assistance of conventional financial firms. Conventional payment firms are dependent on financial regulators, so they have particular reason to avoid participating in a project that could rub policymakers the wrong way.
Members are expected to each contribute $10 million to support the development of Libra. It’s not clear if organizations made their contributions at Monday’s meeting or if that will happen at a later date.