Democrats in Congress are considering a new bill that would stop Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans in its tracks. Dubbed the Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act, the new bill would explicitly ban large platform companies from performing banking functions. The bill would be a direct rebuke to Facebook’s plans with the Libra cryptocurrency, which would likely have to be severed from the company if the bill were introduced and passed.
The bill has not yet been introduced to Congress, and as a result, its contents are far from final. Still, it has been the subject of significant interest as representatives from Facebook appear before the House Banking Committee on Wednesday. The Verge obtained a draft copy of the bill that was circulated for discussion.
The text of the bill says simply “A large platform utility may not be, and may not be affiliated with any person that is, a financial institution,” with further sections spelling out the definitions of various terms. Most notably, “large platform utility” is defined as “a technology company with an annual global revenue of $25,000,000,000 or more…predominately engaged in the business of offering to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties.”
It is not clear what such a rule would mean for tech-oriented finance companies like PayPal or Square if they were to reach $25 billion in annual revenue.
However, it would certainly apply to Facebook, and bar any involvement with Libra as affiliation with a financial institution. It remains to be seen how much support the bill will receive from lawmakers, but the bill raises the stakes significantly as Facebook executive and Libra architect David Marcus heads to the hill for House and Senate hearings this week. Many of the same lawmakers had previously asked Facebook to halt development on the project.
The project has already received significant skepticism from the executive branch. In a briefing this morning, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin expressed concerns that the project could be more useful to criminals than legitimate users. “The Treasury Department has expressed very serious concerns that Libra could be misused by money launderers and terrorist financiers,” Mnuchin said. “We will not allow digital asset service providers to operate in the shadows.”