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08.06.19 | Blog Posts

The Tax Man Taps the Brakes on Digital Currency Expansion

The Insider: White Collar Defense and Securities Enforcement

In June 2019, Facebook and a consortium of 28 founding members including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber Technologies, Inc., and eBay announced the launch in 2020 of a new digital currency called Libra, promoted as “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.” In a White Paper introducing Libra, the consortium promises accessibility to the 1.7 billion adults globally who remain outside the financial system but who have access to mobile phones and the internet and pledges trustworthiness and support for “collaborating and innovating with the financial sector, including regulators.” Yet Libra’s global reach and potential for misuse has alarmed U.S. regulators and central bankers worldwide. At a July 11, 2019 Senate Banking Committee hearing, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed concern that no single regulator currently has authority to oversee Libra, stating that “Libra raises a lot of serious concerns, . . . [including] privacy, money laundering, consumer protection, [and] financial stability.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a White House press briefing on July 15, 2019, acknowledged the great interest in Libra and other cryptocurrencies but voiced Treasury’s serious concern “regarding the growing misuse of virtual currencies by money launderers, terrorist financiers, and other bad players.” Concerns have also been articulated by private citizens. In an Opinion piece published by the Financial Times on June 21, 2019, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes warned that Libra will permit companies that will put their private interests ahead of public ones to exercise monetary control and will “disrupt and weaken nation states by enabling people to move out of unstable local currencies and into a currency denominated in dollars and euros and managed by corporations.” [...]

The Tax Man Taps the Brakes on Digital Currency Expansion