11 May 2020

Facebook's digital currency project Libra names HSBC's chief legal officer as first CEO

Stuart Levey: 'Technology provides us with the opportunity to... empower more than a billion people who have been left on the sidelines'

Stuart Levey will join the Libra Association in the summer with a mission to allay regulators' concerns about the currency

HSBC’s chief legal officer Stuart Levey has been appointed CEO of the Libra Association, a group of private companies that are backing Facebook’s digital currency project.

Levey is set to join the association in the summer as its first chief executive and will face an immediate challenge to revive a project that has stalled amid ongoing resistance from policymakers and regulators. 

Levey said: “I am honoured to join the Libra Association as it charts a bold path forward to harness the power of technology to transform the global payments landscape. Technology provides us with the opportunity to make it easier for individuals and businesses to send and receive money, and to empower more than a billion people who have been left on the sidelines of the financial system, all with robust controls to detect and deter illicit financial activity.”

While Levey has spent the past eight years as HSBC’s global legal chief, he previously served as First Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence during the presidencies of George Bush and Barack Obama. His experience with tackling financial crime could help the association reassure politicians and regulators that Libra won’t become the currency of choice for criminals and money-launderers. 

Katie Haun, Libra Association board member and general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said: “Stuart brings to the Libra Association the rare combination of an accomplished leader in both the government, where he enjoyed bipartisan respect and influence, and the private sector where he managed teams spread across the globe. This unique experience allows him to bring a wealth of knowledge in banking, finance, regulatory policy and national security to the association and strike the right balance between innovation and regulation.”

Last month the Libra Association confirmed speculation that it was planning to scale back its vision of a single global coin backed by a basket of currencies and instead issue a variety of single currency-backed coins, such as Libra dollars or Libra pounds. The association is planning to launch the coins by the end of this year.

The political backlash against Libra has already seen a number of original association members drop out of the project, including Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, eBay and Stripe. Central bankers are also concerned that a digital currency like Libra could reduce the efficacy of monetary policy.

Levey joined HSBC in January 2012 as it battled to rebuild its reputation after a series of pre-financial crisis acquisitions had led to a procession of multi-billion dollar fines and settlements. He managed a legal department with more than 900 lawyers in 50 countries.

Further reading on cryptoassets

Around the house: Kraken appoints crypto currency pioneer as CLO — Marco Santori joins top bitcoin exchange; Eastman Chemical and Emirates Airlines also make key legal appointments

High-stakes Telegram cryptocurrency case nears final determination — Peter Stewart analyses the impact SEC vs Telegram may have on the regulation of digital currencies

Blockchain payments provider BitPay hires its first general counsel — Eden Doniger joins Atlanta-based cryptocurrency leader as it bolsters leadership team

UK gives landmark statement on cryptoassets — Lawyers welcome UK legal statement on the status of cryptoassets and smart contracts given by the chancellor of the High Court Sir Geoffrey Vos

Terminological confusion impeding crypto regulation — Lack of standard terminology for cryptoassets hampers global regulatory response says a new Cambridge University report

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