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October 23, 2019

Rep. Pressley Stands Up for the Underbanked at Facebook Hearing

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WASHINGTON – Today, at a full House Financial Services Committee hearing with Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Facebook, entitled, “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors,” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) exposed Mr. Zuckerberg’s lack of proximity and lack of understanding to the lived experiences of the unbanked.

The transcript below includes Congresswoman Pressley’s opening statement and questions directed towards Zuckerberg.  The full exchange can be viewed here.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I have always maintained those closest to the pain, should be closest to the power, driving and informing policymaking. One thing is abundantly clear to me Mr. Zuckerberg, you are very close to the power. That power is only growing.

Though there is disagreement about who really created Facebook, you ultimately secured near unilateral control of the company. In fact, because of your control of 90% of Facebook’s Class B shares, even if all other shareholders were to vote the same way, any proposal you don’t support would still fail.

All of that to say, Mr. Zuckerberg, Libra is Facebook and Facebook is you.

I know you understand the technological and business case for Libra, you have the stats but I’m not certain you know the stories, that you understand the source of the pain that millions are experiencing who are experiencing underbanking and credit invisibility.

So Mr. Zuckerberg, yes or no in your adult life, have you ever been underbanked? Yes or no?

When I asked the head of Calibra about why people lacked bank accounts, he said he believed that quote “identity” is a big problem end quote.

Yes or no, do you agree that authentication is the major hurdle to accessing the financial system?

The same World Bank report cited in your Libra white paper finds that almost two-thirds of the 1.7 billion people who don’t have bank accounts say it’s because they lack enough money to open one. So this is not about authentication, this is not about banking costs. This is about a tsunami of hurt that millions are experiencing because of a $1.6 trilling student debt crisis, because of rising health care costs and people having to use gofundme pages to pay medical bills. This is because of the racial and gender wealth gap. So again, you represent the power but I don’t think you understand the pain. There is underbanking because people are broke.

Yes or no, is it free to use the Calibra wallet?

So there is no fee?

So, if it costs money to buy Libra and costs money to use the Calibra wallet, I fail to see how this helps people with virtually no money.

You are attempting to use technology to solve what is inherently an issue of wealth.

At the end of the day, you are a business, so what is the business interest for you here? And do you believe in what you are building?

Do you believe in what you are building?

Yes or no, Would you leave behind your children’s inheritance in Libra?

I think it’s a fair question because you have proven that we cannot trust you with our emails, with our phone numbers, so why should we trust you with our hard earned money?

Mr. Zuckerberg, your recent speech at Georgetown touched upon how you were affected by the start of the Iraq War when you were in college, and how, quote – “if more people had a voice to share their experiences, maybe things would have gone differently.”

Earlier this year, you announced that Jennifer Newstead would join Facebook as General Counsel.  Ms. Newstead was the Chief deputy in the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, in the fall of 2001, and was the day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress, according to John Yoo, author of the torture memos.

Ms. Newstead helped sell Congress on mass surveillance once already, and now she is advising you on how to do it again.

Yes or no, is the Patriot Act reflective of your views on privacy and free speech?

Mr. Zuckerberg, that is not what your hiring choices indicate. And Maya Angelou told us a long time ago, when people reveal to you who they are, believe them. I yield.


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