Politics

Gary Gensler confirmed by Senate to lead the SEC, Wall Street's top regulator

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Key Points
  • Gary Gensler will lead the Securities and Exchange Commission after the Senate voted Wednesday to confirm his nomination to head the nation's top financial regulator.
  • Gensler will play a key role enforcing and drafting the rules that govern Wall Street, investors and financial entities.
  • Progressives expect him to look into digital currencies, the GameStop trading mania and how corporate America prioritizes environmental, social and governance issues.
Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gary Gensler will lead the Securities and Exchange Commission after the Senate voted 53-45 on Wednesday to confirm his nomination to head the nation's top financial regulator.

Gensler, chosen for the role by President Joe Biden, will now play a key part in enforcing and drafting the rules that govern Wall Street, investors and a wide range of other financial entities.

Now, with the SEC commissioners possessing a 3-2 Democratic majority, Gensler will likely have a long to-do list after he settles in to his new job.

Progressives expect the 63-year-old to follow through on his promises to look into a range of topics, including digital currencies, the GameStop trading mania and how corporate America prioritizes environmental, social and governance issues.

Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs executive, is perhaps best known in Washington for his unyielding work at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where he devised the regulatory framework for the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market.

Democrats and Republicans alike asked Gensler in March whether he would scrutinize payment for order flow and game-like tactics used by brokerages to entice customers to their platforms. Both subjects received attention on Capitol Hill this year after January's wild trading in GameStop, AMC Entertainment and other stocks.

Gensler also noted potential problems with the current structure of payment for order flow, a common practice on Wall Street whereby trading firms, such as Citadel Securities, pay companies to send them their customers' orders for execution.

Questioned in March how the SEC should regulate bitcoin and other digital assets, Gensler replied that the responsibility could fall across 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 a bitcoin exchange-traded fund.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was quick to offer praise for Gensler following the vote.

"Mr. Gensler will lead the SEC at a time when it's become more and more obvious to most people that the stock market is detached from the reality of working families' lives," the Ohio Democrat said in a statement. "Mr. Gensler will bring the SEC's focus back to the people who make this country work and push to ensure that markets are a way for families to save and invest ... not a game for hedge fund managers where workers always lose."

Sen. Pat Toomey, the ranking member on the Banking committee, offered an explanation on why he opposed Gensler's nomination.

"I'm concerned he will cause the SEC to use its regulatory powers to advance a liberal social agenda focused on issues such as global warming, political spending disclosures, and racial inequality and diversity," the Pennsylvania Republican said in a statement.

"Nothing Mr. Gensler said at his hearing—or since—has alleviated my concerns," he added.

Toomey in March asked for Gensler's thoughts on Nasdaq's push to increase diversity on corporate boards.

Republicans have decried a recent plan submitted by the exchange operator to the SEC that would require the thousands of companies listed on its stock exchange to include women, racial minorities and LGBT individuals on their boards.

Gensler replied by touting the benefits of diversity more broadly and among the ranks at the SEC.