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Facebook Officially Launches Libra Despite High-Profile Departures



Libra, the highly-scrutinized planned cryptocurrency led by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), officially launched in Geneva yesterday despite several high-profile defections from the project last week.

Libra Launches With 21 Chartered Members

The Libra Association, the non-profit governing body of the digital currency, officially signed on 21 charter members at a meeting at its Swiss headquarters. The association was originally made up of 27 members; however, the high level of regulatory scrutiny leveled at the project led to several prominent defections in recent weeks. These include Visa (NYSE:V), PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), and Mastercard (NYSE:MA), which all jumped ship last week as it emerged that Mark Zuckerberg would defend his plans to launch Libra before a Congressional committee.

Libra also named its board of directors and formalized the association’s executive team in Geneva. David Marcus, Calibra CEO and former head of Facebook’s blockchain activities, will take a seat on the five-person board. Joining him will be Katie Haun, a general partner with Andreessen Horowitz; Wences Cesares, CEO of Xapo; Patrick Ellis, general counsel at PayU; and Matthew Davie, chief strategy officer of Kiva. Notable companies making up the 21 chartered members include Spotify, Uber, Vodafone, and several prominent investment firms.

High-Profile Defections

Despite the high-profile defections and intense regulatory resistance to the project, The Libra Association has said that more than 1,500 entities have expressed an interest in signing up, with 180 of them meeting the requirements to do so. In order for new members to join the association, a two-thirds vote is required by the current group of 21. The Libra Association was initially meant to consist of 100 companies; however, no further update on that figure has been provided, nor has an official launch date.

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Regulatory Resistance

Should Libra ever come to fruition, it will be a stablecoin backed by a basket of fiat currencies including the US dollar (50%), the euro (18%), the yen (14%), the British pound (11%), and the Singapore dollar (7%). However, regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have been highly opposed to the plans, with France’s finance minister saying he will block any attempts to develop the coin in Europe, while members of the Federal Advisory Council in the US described the project as a “monetary threat.”

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Mastercard and Visa Reconsider Libra as Regulatory Criticism Intensifies



On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that MasterCard Inc. (NYSE:MA) and Visa Inc. (NYSE:V), among other financial partners, could be reconsidering their position in Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ:FB) cryptocurrency project Libra.

Backers Not Ready for Criticism from Regulators

The Journal report indicated that the financial backers of the cryptocurrency project are not ready to draw criticism from regulators. Libra has received criticism from legislators owing to the reputation of Facebook regarding how it has been handling personal information. Many have declined Facebook’s request to support Libra publicly.

In an interview with CNBC, Visa CEO Alfred Kelly had indicated that although they had signed a letter of intent with the Libra Association, they were nonetheless not a member of anything. He further added that the company will not be part of the association unless there is proof of compliance with regulations.

Libra has two dozen backers, and the report indicates that policy execs of the Libra Association have received a summons to a meeting in Washington. Last week, the association head indicated that the leaders of the project were committed to addressing regulatory concerns about the token. According to Bloomberg, Stripe Inc. and PayPal Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:PYPL) are still unsure about signing on with the project.

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Facebook Pushes Back the Launch of Libra

Last week, Reuters reported that the coin’s launch could be pushed back in order for Facebook to address growing regulatory concerns across the globe. Facebook had planned to launch its stablecoin in mid next year in collaboration with Libra Association members. Libra Association leaders will meet in Geneva on October 14 to review a charter for the association as well as appoint directors.

The cryptocurrency project was seen as the path to the mainstream adoption of virtual currency. However, the project has met political and regulatory criticism with some EU countries such as Germany and France vowing to block it from Europe. Last month, Bruno Le Maire, the economy and finance minister of France, indicated that Libra is a threat to monetary sovereignty under current circumstances and should not operate in Europe.

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Libra Labeled a ‘Monetary Threat’ By Senior US Bank Executives



Libra, the underfire planned cryptocurrency from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), has been described as a monetary threat by senior US bank executives in a meeting with the Federal Reserve.

 Senior Bank Execs Opposed to Libra

Libra has been heavily scrutinized by regulatory bodies and financial institutions across the globe since it was first announced back in June and has been dealt a further blow following a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council this month. Members of the council include M&T Bank CEO Rene Jones, KeyCorp’s Beth Mooney, and Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America.

“Facebook is potentially creating a digital monetary ecosystem outside of sanctioned financial markets — or a ‘shadow banking’ system […] As consumers adopt Libra, more deposits could migrate onto the platform, effectively reducing liquidity, and that disintermediation may further expand into loan and investment services,” banks said, according to the minutes of the council meeting obtained by Bloomberg.

Further Scrutiny from Lawmakers

These concerns were reiterated by two US lawmakers, Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), in a letter to the Fed’s chairman Jerome Powell. “The Facebook/Libra proposal, if implemented, could remove important aspects of financial governance outside of U.S. jurisdiction,” wrote Hill. The same letter also discussed the development of a digital dollar and enquired as to what legal, regulatory, or national security issues might prevent the Fed from developing a digital currency.

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Major Backer Reconsidering Position

The Federal Advisory Council’s apprehension towards Libra is just one of a series of regulatory concerns leveled at the Facebook-led project, which has thrown into doubt whether the coin will ever actually be launched. Yesterday reports emerged that Visa (NYSE:V) and Mastercard (NYSE:MA) were reconsidering their backing of Libra. Visa’s CEO Alfred Kelly stated that although the company had signed a letter of intent with the Libra Association, the company was not a member of anything and would not sign up until the association produced proof of compliance.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg refused to confirm whether Libra would be launched as planned in 2020, creating further doubt as to whether the coin will ever see the light of day.

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Mastercard Teams Up with Blockchain Firm R3 for Cross Border Platform



Payment leader Mastercard (NYSE:MA) intends to expand a blockchain platform for cross-border settlements in collaboration with Ripple-backed fintech research company R3.

Over the course of the past few years, the cryptocurrency space has grown at a remarkably fast rate and after the hibernation of sorts in 2018, most cryptos have been back with a vengeance this year. One thing that needs to be mentioned in this regard is the way in which some of the world’s biggest companies have now identified the true power of blockchain technology. In a new development, payments processing giant Mastercard announced that it has inked a partnership with blockchain Fintech research company R3 to build a cross border payments platform.

Key Details

In this regard, it is important to note that R3 is backed by Ripple, the company that holds the highest number of XRP tokens and has also created its own payment software. XRP is currently the world’s third-biggest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. In this day and age, when people look for a faster and more secure way of sending payments, it is only natural that a company like Mastercard is going to get involved in such a project.

In its press release, the New Payments Platform Vice President of Mastercard said, “Our goal is to deliver global payment infrastructure choice and connectivity as demonstrated through our recent strategic acquisitions and partnerships.”

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The entire project is going to be run by blockchain technology and demonstrates further that the inherent technology could eventually transform the payments space one day. The most important product that R3 has built so far is Corda, which is specifically meant for enterprises and the company stated that this is the product that is going to be used by Mastercard.

While it is true that such a development is going to lead to excitement among holders of XRP, it is not yet clear in any way whether the cryptocurrency is going to involved in this particular project.

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Bitcoin (BTC) is Back in Momentum



Bitcoin has retaken the $10,000 psychological level after coming under bearish pressure in recent weeks. The spike comes hot on the heels of growing optimism that Facebook’s Libra will make its much-awaited entry into the sector, in the first half of next year. The unveiling of Libra is of great importance as it is poised to fuel mainstream media coverage of cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin Price Catalysts

The fact that the likes of Visa (NYSE:V), Mastercard (NYSE:MA), PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), and Uber (NYSE:UBER) have already invested in becoming members of the Libra Association all but raises the prospects of cryptocurrencies gaining mainstream adoption. In addition to the Libra impact, investors are increasingly buying cryptocurrencies on the dip in anticipation of further rallies to all-time highs.

Bitcoin has also continued to surge in anticipation of its halving event. The much-awaited event will result in the reduction of the number of Bitcoins that enter the market with the addition of a new block. Just as it has been the case in previous years, Bitcoin has always rallied a year in advance to a halving event.

The world largest interdealer broker TP ICAP announced plans to launch a digital asset desk for Bitcoin futures, which is another factor behind BTC’s strengthening sentiments in the market. The desk will seek to take advantage of institutional traders, who are looking for ways to venture into the cryptocurrency business.

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Bitcoin Price Analysis

Bitcoin has continued to elicit buying pressure with each pullback in the market. The cryptocurrency is already up by more than 300% for 2019 as it continues to recoup losses accrued over the past year. BTC is currently trading in the $10,000 to $11,000 trading range with a bullish bias.

However, the Relative Strength Index and Stochastic indicator have started to turn down after clocking overbought levels. Bearish momentum might develop as part of the consolidation seen early in the month, as indicated by a negatively crossing monthly Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD). A positively crossing monthly MACD, on the other hand, signals further upside going forward.

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Libra Testnet Surpasses 50,000 Transactions Since September Launch



The Libra testnet has logged over 51,000 transactions since it was reset in September, with 34 projects having been developed on the network according to an update released by The Libra Association last week.

In a blog post titled “Five months and growing strong: the Libra project,” the project’s lead developer, Michael Engle, said, “It’s been just five months since we announced the Libra project on June 18, 2019, and nearly a month since the Association charter was signed by its members in Geneva. We’ve been working diligently to build the global community of developers and the technical infrastructure needed to support it.”

Of the 34 projects developed in the seven weeks since launch, 10 of those are wallets and a further 11 are blockchain explorers. Libra has emphasized the importance of involving the extended community, which supports the planned digital currency and recently held a Core Summit with Association technical team members. Topics covered at that summit included an overview of Libra core and its roadmap as well as how to run a node and build a wallet. From November 26, the project will launch a new streamlined process for submitting code and documentation.

The technical milestone is welcome news for proponents of the project, which has received substantial scrutiny and regulatory pushback from governments and regulators around the world, casting doubt as to whether the digital coin will ever actually come to fruition. The Libra Association, the nonprofit body overseeing the project, was launched last month after 21 members signed the association’s charter.

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The launch came despite several high profile defections from the project, with Visa (NYSE:V), PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), and Mastercard (NYSE:MA) all jumping ship just a week before Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg was due to defend his plans for Libra before a congressional committee hearing. Zuckerberg said that Libra will not hit the market without US approval, with the launch of the stablecoin delayed until mid-2020 at the earliest.

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Libra Chief Praises Its Anti Money Laundering Standards



Libra Chief David Marcus has claimed that the Anti Money Laundering Standards of the underfire project are superior to any other payment networks on the market today.

Libra Scrutiny Means Its On Track, Says Chief

Marcus is the CEO of Calibra, the corresponding digital wallet of Libra, and previously served as president of PayPal and a member of the Board of Directors at Coinbase. Speaking at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas, he said, “I want to say that the efficacy of sanction enforcing can be much higher on Libra than other payments networks.” He pointed to the benefits of blockchain technology in enabling regulators to quickly identify risks in the system without having to rely on external reports.

Libra has been under fire from regulators in the US and Europe, who fear that it poses a threat to the economic sovereignty of nations. Speaking on that scrutiny, Marcus said, “These headlines are a preamble to more hard times ahead, and we must govern the network into a place where it will meet regulatory standards, then we will see the network come to life. People deserve much better than they have.” However, he added that the scrutiny was a sign that Libra was on the right track, saying the most meaningful innovations are always met with “damning headlines.”

The Libra Association

Despite the criticism, the Libra Association was officially launched earlier this month at its headquarters in Geneva. The Association’s charter was signed by 21 founding members, down from the original figure of 27 after several high profile defections, including Visa (NYSE:V), PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL), and Mastercard (NYSE:MA), which all jumped ship after it was announced that Mark Zuckerberg would defend his plans to launch Libra before a Congressional committee.

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At the launch, Libra announced its executive team, which will include Marcus as well as four other high profile figures in the digital payments industry. Katie Haun, a general partner with Andreessen Horowitz; Wences Cesares, CEO of Xapo; Patrick Ellis, general counsel at PayU; and Matthew Davie, chief strategy officer of Kiva, will complete the five-person board.

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MasterCard to Build Crypto and Wallet Products



MasterCard Inc. (NYSE:MA) is planning to venture into the cryptocurrency space with a focus on creating a crypto team of 28 cryptocurrency professionals that will spearhead the development of cryptocurrency and wallet products.

Recruiting of Crypto Experts

On MasterCard’s website, under the career tab, the company notes that it is seeking individuals who will fill the positions of senior blockchain engineer and engineering lead, vice president for product management, product innovation, and development director and product management director for cryptocurrency and wallets.

Equally, there are other senior roles that the company is seeking to fill that also require blockchain tech expertise, such as the director of payments platform and networks, VP of network tech product management, and senior strategic program management analyst, among others.

MasterCard’s requirement for hiring personnel for any of the advertised roles is that candidates have expertise in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology’s operation and functions. The company has indicated that for one to qualify for roles, they have to be aware of the evolution of cryptocurrency as well as have a good command over digital currencies.

The cryptocurrency team will be based in San Francisco, where the company will establish a blockchain headquarter. The team will have the responsibility of advocating blockchain tech concepts within the company.

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MasterCard to Compete with Facebook’s Libra

MasterCard is already embracing cryptocurrency and blockchain and is already a member of the Libra Association. Therefore, any progress the company will make in harnessing cryptocurrency will be a major milestone to the Libra Association, which is comprised of 27 companies. The move by the company to create a cryptocurrency team will benefit the planned launch of Libra, as well as being good competition for it.

The launch of Libra delayed after Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) cited regulatory hurdles as regulators enhance regulatory scrutiny. Libra is also recruiting professionals for its wallet Calibra but has vowed that it will allow free wallet competition from members of the association.

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