WASHINGTON -- Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg will appear before Congress this month as the tech giant is under pressure from lawmakers and regulators over its enormous market power and record of privacy breaches.
Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, announced Wednesday that Zuckerberg will testify at a hearing by the panel on Oct. 23. The focus will be on Facebook's plan to create a digital currency and its role in housing. The company agreed in a legal settlement in March to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.
Lawmakers from both parties and top regulators, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, have criticized Facebook's plan for the new currency, expressing concern that it could be used for illicit activity such as money laundering or drug trafficking. There also is concern that the large reserve created with money used to buy the new currency, to be called Libra, could supplant the Fed and destabilize the financial system, and that consumers could be hurt by Libra losses.
"Mark looks forward to testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and responding to lawmakers' questions," Facebook said in a statement Wednesday.
In July, Waters and other committee Democrats sent a letter to Facebook requesting a halt on moving forward with the currency and with the digital wallet, called Calibra, which would be used in the new currency system. House Democrats also have threatened legislation that would block big tech companies from getting into banking.
France's finance minister said Wednesday that the European Union should not allow Facebook to develop the currency project on "European territory" because it threatens the monetary sovereignty of member countries. "It should not be the role of a private company to try to get a sovereign currency like a sovereign state," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.
Unlike digital currencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum, Facebook's plan calls for Libra to be backed by real currencies.
David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, told lawmakers in July that Facebook would not start the currency project until it had received all the necessary approvals from regulators and secured safeguards to protect the privacy of users' data.
Business on 10/10/2019
Print Headline: Lawmakers to quiz Facebook CEO on new-currency plan