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Libra Association appoints General Counsel

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Today the Libra Association announced that Robert Werner has joined as General Counsel. Werner previously reported to incoming Libra CEO Stuart Levey at both the U.S. Treasury and HSBC. Prior to forming his own consulting firm, Werner worked for HSBC in London as Global Head of Financial Crime Compliance, where Levey is Chief Legal Officer.

Before that, Werner held a similar role at Goldman Sachs. That role was preceded by a stint of just over a year at the U.S. Treasury, where he was Senior Counselor to the Under Secretary, Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Levey, who was Under Secretary at that time, was announced as the new Libra CEO just two weeks ago and will start his role later this summer. Werner is already onboard.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Libra Association as we work to transform the global payments landscape to empower billions of people,” said Mr. Werner who also worked as a director of FinCen.

As much as the regulators insist that payments and digital currencies such as Libra must be compliant, it is that reference to “billions” and the potential challenge to monetary sovereignty that really concerns the central bankers and regulators. Because they believe that Facebook can make that happen at speed.

Another worry that the regulators have is jurisdiction shopping. Many jurisdictions might be keen to be home to Libra. Switzerland was chosen in part because it’s home to the Crypto Valley and also because of its reputation as a neutral financial center.

Last month Libra announced it had formally applied to Swiss regulator FINMA for a payments license. It’s unlikely to be a simple process.

But should it not be successful, Singapore could be waiting in the wings. Just last week Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek announced an investment. And at a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnam seemed very supportive of digital currency initiatives.

Singapore’s dollar is one of just five currencies that was originally announced in September for inclusion in the Libra basket. The other currencies, the USD, Euro, Yen and GBP are the four top traded currencies in the world, whereas Singapore’s dollar is not in the top ten, although the Swiss Franc is.

So while Werner’s new role will be anything but easy, the jurisdictional jostling is unlikely to make it any harder.