House members push for Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans

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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook

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Members of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee are no longer willing to settle for the testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s deputies. Several representatives are pushing for Zuckerberg to testify on the company’s plans to launch a new cryptocurrency called libra following talks for his COO Sheryl Sandberg to appear before the committee.

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, D-Tex., is among the committee members calling for Zuckerberg to appear before the committee. In a call with reporters on Friday, Garcia said she hopes Zuckerberg could answer questions more thoroughly than project lead David Marcus could at his July hearing.

“I think it is imperative that we get Mr. Zuckerberg before the committee,” Garcia said. “Obviously this is his brainchild and this is his company and I think he would be the one to have the answers.”

Garcia’s press secretary Robert Julien said there has been a “significant push” for Zuckerberg to testify before the committee, though he could not confirm how many representatives are involved in the effort.

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Tex., also said he wants to see Zuckerberg appear before the committee. In an emailed statement, Gooden said, “After the last hearing my colleagues and I were left with more questions than answers. If Facebook shares our commitment to transparency for the American people then I hope Mr. Zuckerberg will share his testimony before the Committee.”

Zuckerberg’s right hand executive, COO Sheryl Sandberg, had been in talks to testify before the committee as soon as this month, CNBC previously reported. But two sources familiar with the situation told CNBC that the Oct. 29 hearing with Sandberg would not be confirmed until Zuckerberg agrees to appear before the committee. Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has called for Zuckerberg to appear by January, one of the sources said.

Facebook and a spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.

Waters had been critical of Facebook’s plans to create a new cryptocurrency at the committee’s Marcus in July. At the hearing, Waters had asked if Facebook would postpone its plans to launch libra until policymakers could implement appropriate regulations.

Marcus said, “I committed to waiting for us to have all the appropriate regulatory approvals and have addressed all concerns before moving forward.”

“That’s not a commitment,” Waters responded at the time.

The push for Zuckerberg’s testimony comes as other corporate backers for libra are reportedly questioning their involvement in the project. PayPal said Friday it is withdrawing from the Libra Assocation, the nonprofit that will govern the currency. That followed reports that Visa and MasterCard are among other financial partners reconsidering their role due to government pushback, according to The Wall Street Journal. Facebook has touted the role of outside firms as a way to assuage lawmakers’ fears that Facebook could have unilateral power over the currency.

Garcia said PayPal’s withdrawal is “a clear indication that something’s amiss,” but said she had already been concerned that Facebook seemed to essentially be able to choose its founding partners.

“If I’m doing the inviting, then that’s controlling the entire agenda,” she said.

Facebook introduced its plans for libra as it faces a growing number of investigations on the federal and local level. Zuckerberg has not testified on Capitol Hill since last year in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He recently returned to D.C. to meet with members of congress about impending internet regulation, but those meetings were all behind closed doors.

-CNBC’s Mary Catherine Wellons contributed to this report.

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