The controversial Libra cryptocurrency project gained a new member Friday with Shopify Inc.’s announcement it will join the Libra Association, the governing body for the fledgling venture. Shopify’s decision comes in the face of a string of eight high-profile defections from the association since October, including decisions by Mastercard Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., Stripe Inc., and Visa Inc. to drop their memberships.
But Shopify, a commerce platform based in Ottawa, Ontario, made it plain it sees Libra offering advantages for digital payments and merchandising. “[W]e spend a lot of our time thinking about how to make commerce better in parts of the world where money and banking could be far better. That’s why we decided to become a member of the Libra Association … As a member … we will work collectively to build a payment network that makes money easier to access and supports merchants and consumers everywhere,” the company said in a blog post explaining its decision.
The association laid out the welcome mat for its newest member. “Shopify … brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Libra project,” said Dante Disparte, head of policy and communications, in a statement. “Shopify joins an active group of Libra Association members committed to achieving a safe, transparent, and consumer-friendly implementation of a global payment system that breaks down financial barriers for billions of people.”
Shopify becomes the 21st member of an association that has lost eight members, including the four major payments companies, in the last few months in the face of withering criticism of the project from regulators and central bankers in the United States and Europe. The latest company to leave the project is Vodafone Group plc, which walked away last month.
Facebook Inc. announced Libra in June as a digital stablecoin tied to a basket of securities and managed by the association. The social-media giant is also working on a digital wallet, Calibra, designed for the new currency. But the company’s stumbles with data privacy and other issues worried many regulators, who feared it would exercise outsize control of the venture.
Tobi Lutke, Shopify’s chief executive, dismissed these concerns, stressing the need to focus on Libra’s potential benefits. “We like to make decisions based on future potential instead of heard movement,” he said Friday in a Twitter post. “Funnily enough, this usually leads to us doing the opposite of the others.”