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    商業 - 科技

    Libra面臨哪些挑戰?中本聰會怎么看?

    Timothy Massad 2019年07月17日

    Libra的治理體系引發了許多有趣的問題。有人指出,Libra協會的集中控制與區塊鏈技術的去中心化承諾背道而馳。

    首先要說的是,Facebook的Libra項目是經過深思熟慮的。在這個行業,首次公開發行貨幣(ICO)往往是在信息披露嚴重不足的情況下為不靠譜的概念籌集資金,這已經成了行業特點,Facebook的做法無疑相當受歡迎。不管你對這個項目滿懷希望還是持有懷疑,至少Facebook已經花時間思考了很多復雜的問題。

    然而,項目白皮書引發了人們對監管的擔憂,也讓人們質疑其功用和價值等根本問題,加上Facebook影響力很大,在隱私和安全問題上又有不良記錄,這些擔憂進一步被放大了。美國國會的反應速度之快,力度之強——將于本周舉行聽證會——也說明了這一點。

    在監管方面,Facebook為Libra設計了一些方案來解決許多加密貨幣面臨的一些基本問題。Facebook把Libra貨幣和用于為該項目籌集資金的投資令牌區分開,目的是為了避免美國(和其他國家)的法律把Libra列為一種證券。如果Libra被認定為證券,這個項目很可能無法啟動。雖然Libra得到了由現金和現金等價物組成的資產儲備的充分支持,但Libra的用戶不會從這些儲備中得到任何收益。所有的收益都將用于維護系統以及向投資令牌持有者發放股息。

    但安全性分析可不會止步于此。盡管有儲備意味著Libra可能不會像其他加密貨幣那樣劇烈波動,但它的價值仍然將隨著匯率的變化而波動。儲備可以投資于“低波動性”資產,也可以用于“保值”,但貨幣市場基金也是如此。Libra 協會鼓勵在電子交易所交易Libra,而且有權改變儲備資產的構成,這個事實可能會讓美國證券交易委員會(SEC)蹙眉。如果SEC認為Libra的設計具有投資類產品的特點,它可能還要克服證券法律設置的重大障礙。

    潛在的匯率風險也對稅收構成了挑戰:Libra是否應該像比特幣一樣,被視為應納稅財產?與美元等單一貨幣掛鉤的穩定幣不被視為財產。但與一籃子法幣掛鉤的貨幣面臨的稅收政策尚不清楚。如果Libra在美國或其他國家的法律下被視為財產,那么用戶在每筆交易中都可能面臨確認損益的問題。這將嚴重削弱其作為支付機制的功用。

    如何符合反洗錢(AML)和充分了解客戶(KYC)的要求也將成為挑戰。如果Libra可能被用于非法支付,一定會導致全世界金融監管機構聯合起來反對。Libra白皮書中承認“反洗錢”的重要性,但沒有提供任何具體的合規計劃。用戶是否有責任在進行任何交易前,確保該交易滿足KYC和AML標準?Libra的治理主體——Libra協會是否會對收發Libra的人集中進行AML和KYC審查?

    Libra的治理體系引發了許多有趣的問題。一些加密貨幣愛好者很快指出,Libra協會的集中控制與區塊鏈技術的去中心化承諾背道而馳。另外一些人認為,除此之外,沒有其他切實可行的方法可以讓Libra落地。白皮書說,Facebook致力于長期的去中心化治理,宣揚Facebook只是該協會眾多成員之一,這無疑是為了減輕人們對Facebook通過Libra增強其自身權力和影響力的擔憂。雖然許多知名公司已經宣布同意加入該協會,但我對此不會有過多解讀。在這個階段,這些承諾既不能告訴我們Facebook將在何時或多大程度上放棄控制權,也不能說明第三方認證了該項目的可行性。對于Visa這樣一家年收入200億美元、每年營銷費用高達10億美元的公司來說,為了占個位置押上1000萬美元想必是一個簡單的決定。

    此外,對于那些希望區塊鏈能夠減少我們對大型機構的依賴的人來說,他們未必會樂見該協會的組成——成員包括許多金融和科技行業巨頭。

    白皮書稱,之所以把協會設成在瑞士的基金會,原因是瑞士“一直以來都在全球持中立立場,而且對區塊鏈技術持開放態度”,但實際原因可能更復雜。在《財富》雜志最近舉行的頭腦風暴金融大會上,加密貨幣愛好者們稱,這證明美國在區塊鏈創新競賽中輸給了瑞士等其他地區。但使用瑞士基金會開展國際非營利性活動的做法并不罕見。這樣的基金會在稅收和普通公司法上享有優勢,如果基金會不像Libra那樣主要依賴美國人提供的可減稅捐款,優勢則更加明顯。此外,即使選擇瑞士作為組織的轄地,如果代幣是在美國提供、出售和使用的,Facebook或該協會就仍然必須遵守美國法律。

    因為人們對Facebook的技術主導地位和過去的不良記錄表示擔憂,Libra計劃迅速引發了華盛頓方面的強烈反應,這并不奇怪。參眾兩院兩黨領袖都計劃在7月中旬舉行聽證會,一些人呼吁Facebook停止Libra的相關工作。就連美聯儲主席杰伊·鮑威爾也很快表示,美聯儲將仔細研究這項提議,而在一年前,鮑威爾曾經對美國國會表示,美聯儲對加密貨幣沒有管轄權。世界各地的監管機構也發表了類似聲明。

    美國國會的聽證會肯定會審查Facebook的目標。真的是像白皮書宣稱的那樣,為世界上沒有銀行賬戶的人提供金融服務嗎?還是為了創造一個新的收入來源以及數據來源?即使這不是Facebook的主要目標,Facebook要如何防止自己把Libra帶來的數據用于其他目的?Libra協會的其他金融巨頭成員也可以獲得這些數據嗎?Facebook自身在用戶隱私方面擁有不良記錄,整個加密行業網絡安全記錄又十分難看,Facebook將如何保護用戶的數據和賬戶不受攻擊?

    美國的國會和金融監管機構還將考慮Libra對金融穩定和金融包容性的長期影響。如果Libra的目標真的是普惠金融——為沒有銀行賬戶的人提供服務,那么你必須問一問,一種新的移動支付服務是否能夠滿足目標客戶的全部需要。難道他們不需要信貸產品和流動性產品幫助他們在兩次發薪日中間度過難關,或者幫助他們應對意外的現金需求嗎?目前已經有一些移動支付服務,如微信和M-Pesa,其中一些為存款付息并提供貸款。Facebook能夠提供更廣泛的金融服務嗎?Calibra數字錢包或Libra協會應該在什么時候作為銀行或其他金融中介機構接受監管?

    雖然Facebook表示不打算為Libra的存款支付利息,但應該考慮在Libra中存入大量存款可能對金融穩定性產生的影響。金融體系與其他行業不同,因為它容易受到擠兌和恐慌的影響。自20世紀30年代以來,聯邦政府一直為銀行賬戶提供存款保險,以把銀行擠兌的可能性降至最低。白皮書稱,準備金的存在“阻止了‘銀行擠兌’”。人們一直認為貨幣市場基金是穩定的,因為它們的投資也比較保守——直到2008年秋季。現在,我們已經采取了一些措施來減少脆弱,盡管可能還不夠。

    金融創新一次又一次地催生了在監管框架之外運作的金融中介機構,往往能夠帶來更低的成本、更好的服務或更多的選擇。但遲早——由于危機的爆發或其他原因——我們必須重新設定監管參數,將這些新創新納入監管范圍。監管機構面臨的挑戰是,能否在創新和一開始就把金融穩定風險降至最低之間找到合適的平衡。

    十年前,中本聰宣布,比特幣可以提供一種點對點的價值轉移方式,能夠消除或至少減少我們對大型中央金融中介機構的依賴。2008年金融危機后,這個想法尤其有吸引力,但尚未實現。Libra是這一愿景的一個新迭代,還是一種歪曲?畢竟,如果區塊鏈照著自己“敵人”的樣子創造了一個科學怪人式的化身——一種由全球最強大、最霸道的科技公司集中控制和管理的數字貨幣——這恰恰是區塊鏈一直宣揚自己要打敗的,將十分諷刺。(財富中文網)

    蒂莫西·馬薩德是哈佛大學肯尼迪政府學院的高級研究員、喬治敦大學法律中心的兼職法學教授。他曾于2014年至2017年擔任商品期貨交易委員會主席。

    譯者:Agatha

    ?

    The first thing that should be said about Facebook’s Libra proposal is it is thoughtful. In an industry characterized by initial coin offerings (ICO) seeking to raise funds for flimsy concepts on the basis of grossly inadequate disclosure, this is quite welcome. Whether you are enthusiastic or skeptical about the idea, at least Facebook has taken the time to think through a number of complex issues.

    The white paper nevertheless raises many regulatory concerns, as well as fundamental questions about its utility and value, which are amplified by concerns about Facebook’s power and past record on privacy and security issues. The speed and intensity of the congressional reaction—with hearings scheduled for this week—illustrates that.

    On the regulatory side, Facebook has designed Libra to address some of the basic problems with many previous crypto tokens. By separating the currency, Libra, from the investment token that will be used to raise capital for the project, Facebook is seeking to avoid having Libra classified as a security under U.S. (and other nations’) laws. If Libra were deemed a security, it is unlikely the project could get off the ground. While Libra is to be fully backed by a reserve of cash and cash equivalents, users of Libra will not receive any return from that reserve. Instead, any earnings will be used to pay for maintaining the system and issuing dividends to holders of the investment token.

    But the security analysis may not end there. While the reserve means Libra is likely to be less volatile than other cryptocurrencies, it will still fluctuate in value as exchange rates fluctuate. The reserve may be invested in “low-volatility” assets and may be designed for “value preservation,” but so are money market funds. The fact that the association will encourage the listing of Libra on electronic exchanges and will have the power to change the composition of the reserve may raise eyebrows at the SEC. If it sees features of an investment product in the design, Libra may still have significant security law hurdles to overcome.

    That potential exchange rate risk poses a tax challenge as well: Should Libra be considered property for tax purposes, like Bitcoin? Stablecoins tied to a single currency such as the U.S. dollar are not treated as property. But the tax treatment of a coin tied to a basket of fiat currencies is not clear. If Libra is deemed property under U.S. or other nations’ laws, then a user could face recognition of loss or gain on each transaction. That would severely diminish its utility as a payment mechanism.

    Compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) requirements will also be a challenge. The possibility that Libra could be used for illegal payments is the surest path to uniting financial regulators around the world against it. The white paper acknowledges the importance of AML but does not provide any specific compliance plans. Will a user have the responsibility to satisfy KYC and AML standards before making any transfer? Will the Libra Association, Libra’s governing body, implement central KYC and AML clearance of any person sending or receiving Libra?

    The governance of Libra raises a host of interesting questions. Some crypto enthusiasts have been quick to point out that the centralized control by the Libra Association is antithetical to the decentralized promise of blockchain technology. Others have taken the view that there is no other practical way to launch the currency. The white paper says Facebook is committed to decentralized governance in the long term, and touts the fact that Facebook will be just one of many members of the association, no doubt seeking to allay concerns about Facebook increasing its own power and influence through Libra. But I would not read too much into the announcement that many prominent companies have agreed to participate. At this stage, those commitments neither tell us when or to what degree Facebook will relinquish control, nor are they evidence of third-party verification of the project’s viability. For a company like Visa, which has $20 billion in annual revenue and spends $1 billion a year on marketing, it is presumably an easy decision to ante up $10 million to have a seat at the table as this unfolds.

    Moreover, for those who hope that blockchain can reduce our reliance on large institutions, the composition of the association—which includes many financial and technological giants—is not necessarily comforting.

    The reasons for organizing the association as a Swiss foundation may also be more mixed than the white paper suggests, which says it is because Switzerland has a “history of global neutrality and an openness to blockchain technology.” Crypto enthusiasts at Fortune’s recent Brainstorm Finance conference claimed this is evidence that the U.S. is losing the blockchain innovation race to jurisdictions like Switzerland. But the use of Swiss foundations for international nonprofit activities is not uncommon. There are tax and general corporate law advantages to using such foundations, particularly if the organization is not primarily dependent on receiving tax-deductible contributions from U.S. persons, as will be the case for Libra. In addition, the choice of Switzerland as the jurisdiction of organization does not exempt Facebook or the association from having to comply with U.S. law if the token is offered, sold, and used here.

    Given the concerns about Facebook’s technological dominance and past record, it is not surprising that the Libra proposal provoked quick and strong reactions in Washington. Senate and House leaders on both sides of the aisle have scheduled hearings for mid-July, and some have called on Facebook to halt work on the proposal. Even Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell—who one year ago told Congress that the Fed did not have jurisdiction over cryptocurrencies—was quick to say the Fed will be examining the proposal closely. Regulators around the world have made similar statements.

    The congressional hearings will surely examine Facebook’s objectives. Is it really to bring financial services to the unbanked people of the world, as the white paper claims? Or is it to create a new source of revenue as well as data collection? Even if that is not the primary objective, how will Facebook prevent itself from using the data generated by Libra for other purposes? Will the other financial giants who are members of the Libra Association have access to that data? And in light of its own poor privacy record, as well as the poor record of cybersecurity in the crypto industry generally, how will Facebook keep its users’ data protected and their accounts free from hacks?

    Congress and financial regulators will also want to consider the long-term implications for financial stability and financial inclusion. If the goal of Libra really is financial inclusion—providing services to the unbanked, one must ask whether another mobile payments service is all that the targeted constituency needs. Don’t they also need credit and liquidity products, to tide them over between paychecks, or to help with unexpected cash needs? There are already several mobile payment services, such as WeChat and M-Pesa, some of which pay interest on deposits and provide loans. Will Facebook offer a broader range of financial services? At what point should Calibra or the Libra Association be subject to regulation as a bank or other financial intermediary?

    While Facebook has said it does not intend to pay interest on Libra deposits, the financial stability consequences of significant deposits in Libra should be considered. The financial system is different than other industries because it is vulnerable to runs and panics. The federal government has provided deposit insurance on bank accounts since the 1930s to minimize the potential for bank runs. The white paper claims that the existence of the reserve “discourages ‘runs on the bank.’” But money market funds were thought to be stable because of their conservative investments also—until the fall of 2008. Now, we have taken some steps to reduce that vulnerability, though probably not enough.

    Time and again, financial innovation has given rise to types of financial intermediation that operate outside the regulatory framework, often bringing lower costs, better services, or more choice. But sooner or later—as a result of a crisis or otherwise—we must reset the parameters of regulation to bring these new innovations into the fold. The challenge is whether regulators can strike a proper balance between allowing innovation and minimizing risks to financial stability at the outset.

    Ten years ago, Satoshi Nakamoto proclaimed that Bitcoin could provide a peer-to-peer means to transfer value that could eliminate or at least reduce our reliance on large centralized financial intermediaries. It was an especially attractive idea in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, but one that has not been realized. Should we regard the Libra proposal as a new iteration of that vision or a perversion of it? It would be ironic, after all, if blockchain gives rise to a Frankenstein-like incarnation of the very thing it was advertised to cure—a digital currency centrally controlled and administered by one of the most powerful, domineering technology companies in the world.

    Timothy Massad is a senior fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He was the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2014 to 2017.

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