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Zuckerberg Hearing May Be the Start of Next Phase of Tech Battle

Felice Maranz

(Bloomberg) -- A House hearing scheduled for Wednesday with Mark Zuckerberg as the sole witness will kick off the “next phase” in the battle between big tech companies and the U.S. government, according to Wedbush.

“The drum-roll has started” for the Financial Services committee hearing, with Zuckerberg set to defend the Libra cryptocurrency effort, which still faces a “massive regulatory spotlight,” analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note. The hearing is titled “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors.”

“We fully expect politicians to use this forum as another major shot across the bow on broader antitrust concerns for FAANG names,” Ives said. He sees a regulatory and legal focus on Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions, with “the convergence of Facebook’s messaging platforms likely a hot button issue.”

Ives described Facebook’s Libra as a bid to “further penetrate its customer base with a financial currency that enables the company to become more entrenched in the purchasing cycle of its 2 billion-plus users.”

Other tech companies are making similar efforts, he said, flagging Apple Inc.’s Apple Card with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and an “enhanced” Apple Pay tool. On Tuesday, Goldman CEO David Solomon said the Apple credit card was the most successful card launch ever.

Several payments companies left Facebook’s cryptocurrency project earlier this month. Analysts said the departures would likely delay the coin’s launch and shift Congress’s attention to other matters. That might give Zuckerberg some breathing room, they said.

On Thursday, David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading Libra, said China’s progress toward a digital payments system with global reach could pose a threat to U.S. influence. Marcus had earlier this month said that payments companies exiting Libra was in a way “liberating.”

Facebook’s shares declined as much as 1.4% on Friday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Felice Maranz in New York at fmaranz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Catherine Larkin at clarkin4@bloomberg.net, Debarati Roy

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