Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), speaks during a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee in Washington, DC, the United States, on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Gary Gensler will head the Securities and Exchange Commission after the Senate voted between 53 and 45 on Wednesday to confirm his nomination as head of the country’s top financial regulator.
Gensler, selected for the role by President Joe Biden, will now play a key role in enforcing and drafting the rules that govern Wall Street, investors, and a host of other financial firms.
Now that the SEC commissioners have a 3-2 Democratic majority, Gensler will likely have a long to-do list after settling into his new job.
Progressives expect the 63-year-old to keep his promises to deal with a range of topics, including digital currencies, the GameStop commercial frenzy, and Corporate America’s prioritization of environmental, social, and governance issues.
Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is perhaps best known in Washington for his relentless work on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where he set the regulatory framework for the multitrillion dollar derivatives market.
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Democrats and Republicans asked Gensler in March if he would look into payment for order flow and the playful tactics brokers use to attract customers to their platforms. Both of these topics came to the fore this year after wild trading in GameStop, AMC Entertainment, and other stocks on Capitol Hill in January.
Gensler also pointed to potential problems with the current order flow payment structure, a common practice on Wall Street where trading companies like Citadel Securities pay companies to send them their clients’ orders for execution.
When asked in March how the SEC should regulate Bitcoin and other digital assets, Gensler replied that responsibility could rest with the government depending on how assets such as Bitcoin are classified. One of his earliest and most anticipated decisions as head of the SEC will be whether to allow the creation of an exchange-traded bitcoin fund.
Senator Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was quick to praise Gensler after the vote.
“Mr. Gensler will head the SEC at a time when it is becoming increasingly apparent to most people that the stock market is detached from the reality of working family life,” the Ohio Democrat said in a statement. “Mr. Gensler will return the SEC’s focus to the people who make this country work, and urge that markets be a way for families to save and invest … no match for hedge fund managers where Workers always lose. “
Senator Pat Toomey, the senior member of the banking committee, explained why he was against Gensler’s nomination.
“I am concerned that he will induce the SEC to use its regulatory powers to advance a liberal social agenda that focuses on issues such as global warming, political spending disclosure, and racial inequality and diversity,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement .
“Nothing Mr Gensler said at his hearing – or since then – has addressed my concerns,” he added.
Toomey asked in March for Gensler’s thoughts on Nasdaq’s drive to increase diversity on corporate boards.
Republicans have opposed a plan recently tabled by the SEC’s public exchange operator to require thousands of publicly traded companies to include women, ethnic minority and LGBT people on their boards of directors.
Gensler responded by promoting the benefits of diversity more generally and within the ranks of the SEC.