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Sen. Brown: Facebook shouldn’t slow down on Libra, it should stop

Jessica Smith
Reporter

The top Democratic Senator on the Banking Committee — and one of Libra’s most vocal critics — says he hopes Facebook ( FB ) will stop its cryptocurrency plans.

“Facebook's not the company to do this. They've broken the public trust too many times,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Brown compared Facebook to a toddler setting fires, called the company “dangerous” and said it would be “crazy” to let Facebook “experiment” in banking.

Shortly after the hearing, Brown told Yahoo Finance he did not hear anything from Facebook that eased any of his concerns.

I'm hopeful that Facebook heard this today, heard the outcry from so many saying, ‘Stop, don't do this’ not, ‘Slow down — want to work with you,’ it's really, ‘Stop. You should not be the...new central bank for the world. You shouldn't run this out of the Swiss bank account, currency operation.’ We don't trust you to do that. You've betrayed the public interest so many times,” said Brown.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: Committee chairman Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) (L) listens to ranking member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) (R) during a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee July 16, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Republican and Democratic senators raised concerns about privacy and Facebook’s trustworthiness, though some Republicans seemed slightly more open to the idea.

Before questioning Facebook’s head of Calibra David Marcus , who testified Tuesday, about data privacy concerns, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) said lawmakers should be exploring risks and benefits with a “prudent approach.”

“To announce in advance that we have to strangle this baby in the crib, I think, is wildly premature,” said Toomey.

Marcus told the committee it wouldn’t launch the project until it has addressed regulatory concerns. He also argued Facebook will be only one company involved in the Libra Association — so it won’t have direct control.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: Head of Facebook’s Calibra David Marcus waits for the beginning of a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee July 16, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing on "Examining Facebook's Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Brown doesn’t buy it.

“They kept talking about how this will be so competitive because there'll be a hundred companies, but who are these hundred companies? How do they buy in? But the fact is...none of them have 2 billion subscribers like Facebook. So...they [Facebook] will not be one of a hundred, they will be bigger than everybody. Facebook wouldn't be doing it if they didn't have control over it,” said Brown.

Last week, Brown called on the Fed to protect consumers from Facebook’s “monopoly money,” suggesting the company is veering into antitrust territory and that its new cryptocurrency is akin to the fake money used in the Monopoly board game.

“It's both,” said Brown “The reason people are now equating tech companies with Wall Street is they saw the dominance of Wall Street — the political power of Wall Street. The big banks got bigger and bigger. The White House looking like...a retreat for Wall Street executives. They're seeing the same now with tech companies. Bigger and bigger tech companies, more and more power, more and more corporate control, more and more political power.”

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8 .

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