Libre, the Facebook backed and initiated cryptocurrency project, has hired one of HSBC’s senior executives as its first CEO. The Geneva-headquartered Libra Association yesterday confirmed Stuart Levy, the lawyer who is currently HSBC’s chief legal officer will take up the role at some point between mid-November and the end of the year.
The 56-year-old Mr Levy is an extremely experienced financial services legal expert who is credited with re-establishing a good professional relationship between the bank and regulators in the wake of the bank’s historical fine for charges on violating international sanctions and unwitting role in money laundering. In his current role he is responsible for HSBC’s team of around 900 lawyers.
Before becoming HSBC’s chief legal officer, Mr Levy was under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence for a period that spanned both the Bush and Obama administrations. A key part of that job was enforcing sanctions against Iran – the violation of which were exactly what landed HSBC in hot water with regulators.
With the Libra Association’s greatest challenge getting regulators onside, and preventing its cryptocurrency being misused by money launderers, the appointment of Mr Levy can be considered both something of a coup and just the kind of profile needed. Central banks, the established financial services sector and regulators have all reacted to Facebook’s plans for Libra with a mixture of caution and concern.
The Libra Association does has some major tech sector backers including music streaming service Spotify and ride hailing app and driverless technology giant Uber. However, early supporters from the financial services sector such as Visa and Mastercard have withdrawn from the Association in recent months under pressure from regulators.
That opposition hasn’t dissuaded Facebook and the Libra Association’s remaining backers from plans to push forward with the launch of Libra later this year. The cryptocurrency will be built on blockchain technology and is intended as what is referred to as a ‘stable coin’, backed by fiat currencies including the US dollar, euro, pound sterling, yen and Singapore dollar. That should keep its exchange value stable, in contrast with the wild volatility existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are known for.
Mr Levy will take up his new position with the blessing of his current employers. HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn praised Mr Levy for his contribution, stating:
“We exited our 2012 deferred prosecution agreement on time in no small part due to Stuart’s efforts.”
Mr Levy will be succeeded as HSBC’s chief legal officer on an interim basis by Richard Gray, who is currently the bank’s global general council.