After a long, painful string of defections, the Libra Association finally has some good news to announce. A new member, retail e-commerce site Shopify, made the $25 million commitment to join on Feb. 21.
Launched to support Facebook’s high profile and highly controversial stablecoin proposal, the independent Libra Association suffered a series of defeats in recent months. Following intense pressure from regulators and elected officials in the U.S., EU, and elsewhere, seven of the best-known members withdrew in the first weeks of October. PayPal was first, on Oct. 4. They were followed on Oct. 11 by Mastercard, Visa, Mercado Pago, eBay, Stripe, and Booking Holdings. Then on Jan. 21, British telecom Vodafone pulled out.
So, Shopify’s decision is welcome news for the Libra Association, which has remained committed to the project. Announced with 28 companies onboard, it now has 21.
Noting that Shopify serves more than 100 merchants in 175 countries, Dante Disparte, the Libra Association’s head of policy and communications, said the non-profit was “proud to welcome Shopify.”
The multinational e-commerce platform, “brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Libra project,” Disparte added. “Shopify joins an active group of Libra Association members committed to achieving a safe, transparent, and consumer-friendly implementation of a global payment system that breaks down financial barriers for billions of people.”
Both Facebook and the Libra Association have focused on the ability of a stablecoin available to 2.7 billion users of Facebook’s messaging apps to bring many of the poor and unbanked into the world financial system. The project’s detractor have focused on the ability of a stablecoin instantly accessible to users of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram apps to have a massive and potentially destabilizing impact on national currencies and the world financial system.
Shopify joins Libra
Shopify focused on the financial inclusion message in its statement.
“As online commerce becomes increasingly borderless, it’s easy to forget that payments and the value exchange of goods are not a solved problem everywhere,” the company said. “Our mission is to make commerce better for everyone and to do that, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to make commerce better in parts of the world where money and banking could be far better. As a member of the Libra Association, we will work collectively to build a payment network that makes money easier to access and supports merchants and consumers everywhere.”
The Canada-based e-commerce site’s statement added, “[t]his is one step, but not the only step we’ll be taking to be a part of the solution to this global problem.”
Libra’s detractors—many of them fierce advocates of financial inclusion for the poor—have made no secret of their disdain for Facebook’s argument that the stablecoin is designed first and foremost to benefit 1.7 billion of the world’s poorest people.
In an Oct. 23 hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, vocally anti-crypto Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “for the richest man in the world to come here and hide behind the poorest people in the world and say, that’s who you’re really trying to help…,” Sherman said. While he tailed off, his tone made it clear that something like “is obscene,” was coming.