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Fintech Watchdog Chief Testifies Before Congressional Committee

UK Fintech Watchdog Chief Testifies Before Congressional Committee

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Director of Competition, Christopher Woolard, has just testified before the House Financial Services Committee Fintech Task Force.

In his presentation entitled ‘Overseeing the FinTech Revolution: Domestic and International Perspectives on FinTech Regulation’, Woolard touched upon some of the key work that the FCA and other agencies in the UK had done in the sector of innovation and open banking.

Several projects were detailed, including the Project Innovate in 2014, the regulatory sandbox in 2015, a feedback statement on supporting the development and adoption of regtech (2016) and a lessons learnt document from the sandbox published in 2017. Fresh details of the impact and effectiveness of the regulatory sandbox were also shared evidence that suggests its work:

“… gives firms the regulatory certainty they need to develop their innovations and deliver
them at speed; improves outcomes for consumers by firms we support bringing innovation to market and incumbents responding to compete harder and improve their own offerings; encourages positive innovation domestically and internationally.”

The newly formed Task Force was set up to investigate new solutions that would foster innovation in the financial services sector. Its announcement by House Financial Services Committee Chairwomen Maxine Waters last month was meant to hold hearings for legislators so they would gain better understanding of the upcoming innovations in financial services.

Woolard’s role as the head of a leading global regulatory body, and its significant place in facilitating fintech, was meant to provide the US committee members with a non-US viewpoint. The UK’s regulatory ecosystem is generally more organized and can come into stark contrast with that of the US, and is widely recognized as the benchmark for innovation.

Others participating in the hearing included:

  • Paul Watkins, Assistant Director, Office of Innovation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  • Beth Knickerbocker, Chief Innovation Officer, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
  • Valerie Szczepanik, Associate Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Senior Advisor for Digital Assets and Innovation, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Charles E. Clark, Director, Department of Financial Institutions, State of Washington, on behalf of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS)

 

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Facebook Libra Under Fire Less than 24 hours of Whitepaper Unveiling

Facebook Libra Under Fire Less than 24 hours of Whitepaper Unveiling

Facebook’s Libra project has indeed gotten the attention of the government yet again and has been requested to temporarily halt the development of the cryptocurrency – less than 24 hours of the unveiling of its white paper – until a full-scale examination of the currency has been carried out by relevant agencies.

In a Tweet by CNN tech reporter Brian Fung, chairwoman Maxine Waters of the United States House Committee on Financial Services was quoted recounting the privacy concerns with Facebook as a matter of national interest and has requested for a moratorium on any movement towards the development of the Libra Project:

NEW: The top lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee are targeting Facebook’s new cryptocurrency, #Libra.

Chairwoman Maxine Waters says it’s another example of Facebook’s “unchecked expansion,” urges execs to testify and calls on FB to stop working on the currency. pic.twitter.com/xOklWsfLdx

— Brian Fung (@b_fung) June 18, 2019

According to the Tweet, Facebook’s attempt to create a cryptocurrency was an act of disregard for concerns of data privacy and the social media giant may have simply taken an advantage of the unregulated nature of the cryptocurrency markets to continue its “unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” says Waters.

Indeed, the concerns are getting real by the day as to whether a cryptocurrency is a right course for Facebook to pursue at this time. Moreover, privacy issues aside, the rate of adoption of cryptocurrencies could possibly be an indirect concern as well, given that the mobile wallet being developed by Facebook – Calibra, would grant billions of people access to cryptocurrency.

Following this train of thought, it appeared a few from the house may have shared this concern as well, to which one of the long-standing members of the committee, Rep. Patrick McHenry had initiated a letter to the Chair to call for a hearing in order to assess the ramifications of the project beyond speculations and rumors, noting the huge financial backings as well as the scale of its parent company’s global reach. He said:

“Unlike existing digital currencies, Facebook has a worldwide platform and scale that can impact global payments and the digital currency market.”

From McHenry’s statement, perhaps it could be inferred that Bitcoin and the over 2000 cryptocurrencies in the market today are not as threatening as the one Libra project being developed by Facebook.

Moreover, Fung further said that a move to establish a shared concern with the Senate Banking Committee left him with a reference to the letter sent last month by the committee to Facebook with no further comment at the time.

Bitcoin News recently reported the unveiling of Facebook’s white paper, with some of its intriguing elements to serve as precursors to a major shift in the financial service sector – specifically in the payment processing sub-division. The question without a doubt has shifted from whether Facebook’s pet project could impact the cryptocurrency ecosystem to how the US policymakers and the global financial market would interpret the Libra cryptocurrency?

The stage for a new saga has been set for the fetal Libra, as the project will be stripped to its finest grain to ascertain that it does not conflict with regulatory, and established policy margins. All attention would be drawn to this development, as lawmakers pursue the quest for a faceoff with Facebook. Bitcoin News will continue to follow this development as they unfold.

 

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