Significant changes could be on the horizon at the CFTC, and the table is set for a complete five-member commission in the coming months as it considers four women to serve on the federal agency with oversight over derivatives markets.
On 4 January, Russ Behnam was officially sworn-in as the Senate Confirmed Chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, following a unanimous voice vote in the US Senate. This allows Behnam the ability to set the agency's direction as long as he remains in that office. One of the first actions we have begun seeing, as Behnam lays out his vision for the direction of the commission, are personnel announcements.
On 12 January, Behnam announced the appointment of Tanisha Cole Edmonds as the CFTC's first Chief Diversity Office. Then on 20 January , Behnam announced several executive staff appoints and on January 25, announced several more CFTC leadership appointments, including Rob Schwartz, General Counsel; Clark Hutchison, Clearing and Risk Division Director; and Suyash G. Paliwal, International Affairs Office Director.
However, some of the most material work of the agency requires a full slate of four CFTC commissioners voting in public hearings along with the chairman himself. And right now, three of those seats are open – and Dawn Stump, the only other Commissioner currently serving at the agency, has made clear her intention to depart the Commission when her term expires in April.
That means much of Behnam's agenda depends on the confirmation of a new batch of commissioners to bring the agency up to full strength for the first time since January 2021.
On 22 February , leadership of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture announced a hearing for 2 March to consider the nominations of four CFTC Commissioners that, if confirmed by the Senate, would return the agency to full strength.
That means much of Behnam's agenda depends on the confirmation of a new batch of commissioners to bring the agency up to full strength for the first time since January 2021. That could come soon. The Senate Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over the CFTC, has scheduled a hearing for 2 March to consider the nominations by the Biden administration of four people to serve as CFTC Commissioners. That is the first step in a process leading to a vote on the floor of the Senate.
CFTC Commissioner Nominees
President Joe Biden has nominated four candidates for commission seats at the CFTC - two Democratic nominees and two Republican nominees to fill open commission seats, as well as the seat currently held by Commissioner Stump, who has announced she intends to remain in office until she is replaced.
President Biden nominated Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero for Democratic seats on the Commission. Johnson is currently a professor of law at Emory University School of Law, and Goldsmith Romero serves as the presidentially appointed special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and University of Virginia Law School.
President Biden has also nominated Summer Mersinger and Caroline Pham for Republican commission seats. Mersinger currently serves as chief of staff to Commissioner Stump. Pham is currently a Managing Director at Citi, and head of market structure for strategic initiatives in Citi's Institutional Clients Group.
All four of the nominees require confirmation by the Senate. The confirmation process provides members of the Senate with an opportunity to question the nominees and express their support or opposition. For more information, a primer on the confirmation process is available here.
Historically, pairing two Democratic Commission nominees with their counterpart Republican nominees is one of the most efficient ways to move nominees through the confirmation process.
Nominee Background from The White House
- Christy Goldsmith Romero has been nominated for a term expiring April 2024.
- Christy Goldsmith Romero has served as Special Inspector General for the Office of TARP under the Department of Treasury since March 2012.
- Since 2019, she has also served as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown the University of Virginia, teaching courses in securities regulation, cryptocurrency regulation, and federal oversight.
- Prior to her role at Treasury, she served as counsel to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and Chairman Christopher Cox, and as an attorney in the SEC Division of Enforcement. Prior to joining the SEC, she was a litigator at several law firms.
- Kristin Johnson has been nominated for a term expiring April 2025.
- Kristin Johnson is currently a Professor of Law at Emory University where she works on financial markets risk management law and policy with specialization in the regulation of financial products including secondary market trading, clearing, and settlement of securities and derivatives.
- Prior to her academic career, Kristin served as assistant general counsel and vice president at JPMorgan and as corporate associate at Simpson, Thacher, and Bartlett LLP's New York and London offices
- Summer Mersinger has been nominated for a term expiring April 2023.
- Summer Mersinger has over 17 years of federal government service, spending the last two years at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission where she served as chief of staff to Commissioner Stump and as the director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.
- Prior federal service included 15 years working on Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives and the Senate for her home state Congressman and then Senator, John Thune from South Dakota, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate.
- Caroline Pham has been nominated for a term expiring April 2027.
- Caroline Pham is a Managing Director at Citi where she has held various senior roles, including as a global head of compliance and deputy head of global regulatory affairs.
- She is currently head of market structure for strategic initiatives in Citi's Institutional Clients Group.
- She also has public sector experience including serving as Special Counsel and Policy Advisor to former CFTC Commissioner Scott O'Malia.
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