The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker and a forceful commodities regulator under former President Barack Obama, to head up the Securities and Exchange Commission, setting the stage for widespread reform as the agency takes on unprecedented stock-market volatility and booming institutional adoption in the nascent cryptocurrency space.
The Senate confirmed Gensler’s appointment Wednesday afternoon in a vote of 53 to 45, placing the 63-year-old academic and former investment banker atop the agency charged with maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets.
Gensler, who’s promised to increase transparency and reduce risk in the market, succeeds former SEC Chair Jay Clayton, an attorney tapped by former President Donald Trump to undo financial regulations that “stifled investment in American companies.”
The confirmation comes more than a month after the Senate Banking Committee voted 14 to 10 to advance Gensler’s nomination for two terms ending on June 5, 2026.
The Senate only voted to confirm Gensler for the remainder of the term expiring June 5, so it will need to hold another vote for his second term.
Viewed as a leading reformer after the 2008 financial crisis, Gensler opened his nomination hearing in March by touting his five-year stint as chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and cautioning that “when we fail to root out wrongdoing, or to adapt to new technologies, or to really understand novel financial instruments, things can go very wrong.”
A Baltimore native, Gensler graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business before spending nearly two decades as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, becoming one of the storied financial institution’s youngest partners at the time. He broke into the public sector in 1997 after then-President Bill Clinton nominated him for an assistant secretary post at the Treasury Department and later became CFTC chair in 2009. There, he headed up an effort to increase transparency and reduce risk in the $400 trillion swaps market—drawing praise from former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who reportedly called Gensler one of the leading reformers in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
What To Watch For
Crypto regulation under Gensler. In an interview with Forbes last month, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce acknowledged Gensler will have a “very busy agenda—much of which will have nothing to do with crypto,” but she said he’s likely to be “sympathetic to the call for regulatory clarity” in the space. The SEC has long delayed issuing firm regulation targeting digital currencies given its purview over securities (and not currencies), but Gensler—a professor focused on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management—will be overseeing the agency as it takes on a slew of bitcoin exchange-traded fund applications and as it investigates Ripple, the firm behind one of the world’s largest cryptocurrencies, for the alleged sale of unregistered securities.
“Unfortunately, when he was the chairman of the CFTC, Mr. Gensler demonstrated a willingness to push the legal limits of that agency’s authority,” Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee who voted against Gensler’s nomination, said on the chamber’s floor Tuesday. “Based on his record as a regulator in the past and statements that he’s made during the course of his nomination process, I am concerned that he will use the FCC and its regulatory powers to advance an agenda that should not be the purview of the SEC—specifically on global warming, climate change, political spending disclosures and issues of racial inequality and diversity.” Chief among his concerns, Toomey said Gensler seemed willing to “impose regulations that would make investing more expensive and difficult for retail investors” as a means to curb recent stock-market volatility.
“When it comes to enforcement, Mr. Gensler has shown he has the guts to take on bad actors, no matter how big, no matter how powerful they are, and he will hold them accountable,” Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Tuesday.