Booking Holdings, the Norwalk-based online travel company, has withdrawn from the Libra Association, the Swiss-headquartered entity administering Facebook’s controversial Libra cryptocurrency.
The company, formerly known as Priceline Group, announced its decision to withdraw in a statement to CNBC, although it offered no explanation for its action. Last week, several prominent corporate members of the Libra Association – including eBay, Mastercard, Mercado Pago, Stripe and Visa – announced they were bowing out, following an exit by PayPal.
The Libra Association consisted of 28 founding members, including Lyft, Spotify, Uber Technologies, Vodafone Group, Coinbase Inc. and the nonprofit Women’s World Banking. CNBC reported it is scheduled to convene on Oct. 21 for a review of its charter and the election of a board of directors.
At the moment, there are no plans to expand Libra into traditional retail, e-commerce or banking channels – and no financial institution is among the founding Libra Association entities.
Libra is the brainchild of Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who formally announced it in June as a “new decentralized blockchain, a low-volatility cryptocurrency, and a smart contract platform that together aim to create a new opportunity for responsible financial services innovation.”
Since then, the project has been the subject of criticism and skepticism from government officials – and it is one of the few subjects that unites President Trump and congressional Democratic leaders including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee.
In a July 27 article published by the Business Journal, regional experts questioned the viability and goals of Libra. Neil Howe, head of the demography sector at Hedgeye Risk Management in Stamford, admitted being confused over Libra’s purpose, noting, “I didn’t know if it was a cryptocurrency or a Venmo-like thing as a means of funds transfer.”
Nicholas Coriano, partner at Bridgeport-based Cervitude Inc., questioned whether any government would allow it to operate as a rival to a national currency, predicting, “There is going to be a lot of negotiation before it is commercially available.”
And Scott Acheychek, president of Rex Shares LLC in Fairfield, believed that while it could have a place in underbanked developing countries, added, “It is probably something that I will never use.”