It’s official: Gary Gensler is the new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after a 53-45 vote by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
Gensler, who was nominated to the position by President Joe Biden in January, previously ran the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), overseeing the implementation of new regulations around derivatives in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. As SEC chair, he’ll have ample opportunity to shape regulations addressing the cryptocurrency industry – or determine how existing regulations should apply.
“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have brought new thinking to payments and financial inclusion, but they’ve also raised new issues of investor protection that we still need to attend to,” Gensler said during a confirmation hearing held by the Senate Banking Committee last month. “If confirmed at the SEC, I’d work with fellow commissioners to both promote the new innovation, but also at the core to ensure investor protection.”
Gensler will take office as his agency grapples with a number of high-profile actions in the cryptocurrency space, including its ongoing lawsuit against Ripple, which the SEC has accused of violating federal securities laws, and nine bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) applications, which industry participants have clamored for for years.
He has already weighed in on some of these issues as a private citizen lecturing at MIT. In 2018, he called XRP a “non-compliant security,” and said other initial coin offerings might violate U.S. securities laws.
The SEC will also be watching as Coinbase goes public on Wednesday, following the agency’s deeming its form S-1 effective (essentially a tacit approval).
Gensler will also have to deal with a number of issues around the existing stock market, including the Gamestop volatility from earlier this year.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the chair of the committee, endorsed Gensler’s nomination ahead of Wednesday’s vote, calling him an “experienced public servant with a strong record of holding Wall Street accountable.”
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,” he said during floor debate on Tuesday.