House lawmakers are ratcheting up pressure on Facebook in an attempt to force chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to testify in the coming months about his company’s plans to launch the Libra cryptocurrency.

Initially, Facebook agreed to dispatch Zuckerberg’s second in command, Sheryl Sandberg, to testify at a possible Oct. 29 hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, where lawmakers led by Rep. Maxine Waters have expressed deep reservations about Libra and its effects on the global financial system, according to a source familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss it on record.

But lawmakers have said that hearing isn’t going happen unless Zuckerberg also agrees to appear before the committee by January, the source said, which Facebook has not agreed to do.

AD

The standoff threatens to sour the relationship between Facebook and the lawmakers responsible for monitoring the country’s financial institutions. Many members of Congress have demanded that the social-networking giant halt its plans for Libra until their concerns about money laundering, fraud and abuse are addressed.

AD

A spokeswoman for Waters, whose committee has subpoena power, declined comment. Facebook also declined comment.

Announced earlier this year, the social networking giant aspires to make Libra available to its more than 2 billion users worldwide. While Facebook has pioneered the cryptocurrency, it will be run by an association based in Switzerland.

AD

The tech giant’s plans have drawn bipartisan scrutiny, including from top U.S. financial regulators and even President Trump, who at one point suggested Facebook may need to submit to banking regulation.

Amid the backlash, Zuckerberg has pledged that Facebook will not deploy Libra anywhere in the world until U.S. authorities are comfortable with it, a message he relayed to lawmakers at a series of private meetings in Washington last month. Facebook also has hired a torrent of new lobbyists, registering five firms specifically on issues related to Libra and blockchain, the technology underpinning it, according to federal ethics reports. Many of those lobbyists are former congressional aides with ties to lawmakers who lead key financial services and banking committees.

AD

In July, Waters and her panel grilled Dave Marcus, the Facebook executive overseeing Libra, at one of two hearings that laid bare the broad fears about the company-backed cryptocurrency. A month later, Waters led a delegation to Switzerland, where she said that her “concerns remain with allowing a large tech company to create a privately controlled, alternative global currency.”

AD

Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia (Texas), a committee member who joined the delegation, said in a statement Friday she left the hearing earlier this year fearing Libra “would affect the global economy, the U.S. dollar, financial institutions and most importantly consumers.”

“It is critical that Mark Zuckerberg comes before the Financial Services Committee to address these concerns and answer questions about why Facebook is developing its own cryptocurrency to begin with,” she added.

AD
AD