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Executive leading Meta’s stuttering digital currency project quits

David Marcus, the Meta executive tasked with launching its stuttering digital currency project, has announced he is leaving the company at the end of the year.

The departure comes after Meta, Facebook’s parent company, suffered a string of setbacks in its attempts to launch ambitious cryptocurrency products, including a new digital token, Diem.

In a series of tweets posted on Tuesday morning, Marcus said he planned to launch something new outside the social networking giant, and that his “entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it”.

The 48-year-old had been at Meta for seven years, and previously was head of Facebook Messenger. He joined the company from PayPal. In August 2020 Marcus was made head of Facebook Financial, a new unit designed to oversee all of the company’s payments products.

Marcus said he found “comfort and confidence” in his soon-to-be former team, which will now be led by Stephane Kasriel, currently head of product for Meta’s digital wallet, Novi.

“They will continue to execute our important mission well under @skasriel’s leadership, and I can’t wait to witness this from the outside,” Marcus wrote. “I know there’s greatness ahead.”

Responding on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said: “We wouldn’t have taken such a big swing at Diem without your leadership and I’m grateful you’ve made Meta a place where we make those big bets.”

Meta declined to comment.

Diem, first announced in 2019 under the name Libra, immediately attracted the attention of financial regulators and politicians concerned about broad issues associated with cryptocurrency, such as money laundering. It was launched against the backdrop of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other privacy missteps.

Early backers of the project, including Mastercard and PayPal, abandoned the initiative as regulatory pressures mounted.

In May, the Diem Association — an independent body set up to run the currency — said it would significantly narrow its scope, dropping its application to the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority to operate as a global payments service, and focusing instead on the US.

Novi, Meta’s digital wallet, was launched as a small-scale pilot in October, but will at first use a different coin — Paxos Dollar — instead of Diem. It is available to a limited number of people in the US and Guatemala.

A group of Democratic senators opposed the launch of Novi, writing in a letter to Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg: “Facebook cannot be trusted to manage a payment system or digital currency when its existing ability to manage risks and keep consumers safe has proven wholly insufficient.”

Marcus’s unit also faced push back on non-crypto payment products. Last year regulators in Brazil ordered Meta to suspend payments on its WhatsApp messaging platform over concerns it would disrupt the country’s existing financial system. Brazil’s central bank has since given approval.

In India the number of users allowed to access WhatsApp payments has been capped by the government.

Kasriel, who joined the company in August last year, was previously executive of Upwork, a marketplace for freelance workers.

Kasriel tweeted: “I am so honoured for the opportunity to lead the awesome Novi team and look forward to continuing to build products and services that allow more access for people and businesses to the financial system and digital economy.”

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