This week a closed congressional session was held to update members on recent developments in the crypto sector. Not surprisingly, lawmakers choose to focus primarily on Facebook’s Libra token. To that end, congressional members pressed the SEC for an answer to whether or not Libra would fall under current securities regulations.
The session was held by the Committee on Financial Services on Sept 24, in room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Five SEC commissioners participated in the meeting including Chairman Jay Clayton, Robert J. Jackson Jr., Hester M. Peirce, Elad L. Roisman, and Allison Herren Lee. Notably, the official title of the meeting was “Oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission: Wall Street’s Cop on the Beat.”
After a brief discussion regarding the shift from public offerings to private crowdfunding campaigns, the board began discussing cryptocurrencies. Committee members pointed to the April 2019 guidance which the SEC released to help investors determine if a token falls under securities regulations. They then applied the guidance to Facebook’s strategy
According to Facebook’s Libra whitepaper, Facebook intends to use its digital currency to facilitate the growth of its internal economy. There will be two types of Libra tokens. The first is the Libra Investment Token which is offered to association members only. Notably, all association transactions are backed by actual bank deposits and government securities. These securities are to be held in the Libra Reserve. The second token is for Facebook users. These tokens are what users can send and receive in exchange for goods, services, or as a means to transfer value. Importantly, Facebook plans to create new tokens only when authorized resellers purchase tokens from the association directly.
As part of Facebook’s initiative, the firm created a non-profit called the Libra Association which is based in Geneva Switzerland. The Association consists of Facebook alongside 27 additional members. Swiss officials have long been supporters of major blockchain products. Consequently, the country has one of the most robust legal frameworks available to blockchain investors. In the past, Facebook cited this pro-crypto stance to explain the decision to base operations in the country.
Libra Investment Token Issues
The panel considered the Libra Investment Token a security for a couple of key reasons. Firstly, the token is to be sold to investors to fund startup costs. Also, this token provides dividends to investors. On the utility token variant, the SEC was vague. The SEC stated that the token may also be a security if it’s somehow integrated into the Libra Investment Token strategy. Another point of confusion was when the SEC attempted to determine if Libra token holders “had a reasonable expectation of profits.
Consequently, SEC regulators are undetermined at this point where to place this token since Facebook doesn’t plan to pay dividends to these token holders. Also, problems may arise when crypto payments are used as a global money transference system. In this scenario, Libra could fall under E-money licensing requirements in the US.
Congress is Not a Fan
As it stands, lawmakers want to ensure Libra falls under as many regulations as possible. The overall tone is one of concern and distrust. Facebook will need to overcome these obstacles prior to a US launch.