The Senate confirmed Gary Gensler, a progressive ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, the top Wall Street regulatory agency.
The Senate voted 53-45 in favor of confirming Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chairman, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday afternoon. Gensler’s confirmation gives Democrats a 3-2 majority on the SEC’s board of commissioners and enables them to implement a variety of progressive financial regulations.
“Mr. Gensler is an experienced public servant with a strong record of holding Wall Street accountable,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown said during his floor speech supporting Gensler’s nomination Tuesday. “And he 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.”
Gensler, who is an ally to Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was known for aggressively regulating Wall Street when he led the CFTC from 2009 to 2014, Axios reported. Gensler previously worked for Goldman Sachs as a partner and the Treasury Department in several positions.
As CFTC chair, Gensler was tough on enforcement issues and helped bring transparency to the market by implementing safeguards in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Brown said Tuesday.
The SEC’s commissioners congratulated Gensler and said they look forward to working with him to execute the SEC’s “vital mission” in a joint statement Wednesday.
Senate Republicans opposed Gensler’s, arguing that he had a penchant for over regulating when he led the CFTC. They said the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic would be stymied by unnecessary and burdensome regulation.
Republicans also worried Gensler would use the SEC to force private sectors to comply with social justice mandates.
“Based on his record and statements during the nomination process, 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,” Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey said Tuesday.
“I asked him if it’s a good idea for companies to be forced or pressured to comply with quotas for the race, gender and sexual orientation of their board members,” Toomey said. “In response, Mr. Gensler did not disavow forcing or pressuring companies to use quotas to achieve board diversity.”
The SEC is currently reviewing rules that would mandate companies to disclose diversity statistics and details on how they are combatting climate change.
The Nasdaq, a leading Wall Street exchange operator, asked the SEC in December if it could require the nearly 3,200 companies on its exchange to have at least one woman and one “underrepresented minority” on their boards of directors, CNBC reported. More than 75% of the companies do not meet that threshold.
Toomey and other Republican leaders in the Senate have warned the Federal Reserve and government agencies against using their authority to prioritize so-called environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives over the financial wellbeing of Americans.
In March, the environmental nonprofit organization Ceres urged the Senate to confirm Gensler swiftly, citing his commitment to mitigating climate change through financial regulation. The organization noted that Gensler had previously said the SEC had a “role to play” in curbing climate change.
“Under Gary Gensler’s leadership, there is hope for the SEC to finally actualize its mandate to send a clear market signal across every sector of the economy that understanding and mitigating climate risk is crucial to the financial sustainability of our country,” Ceres CEO and president Mindy Lubber said in a statement.