Gary Gensler

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Gary Gensler
Gary Gensler, SEC Chair.jpg
33rd Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission
Assumed office
April 17, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byJay Clayton
11th Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
In office
May 26, 2009 – January 3, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byReuben Jeffery III
Succeeded byTimothy Massad
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance
In office
April 1999 – January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byJohn Hawke
Succeeded byPeter Fisher
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Markets
In office
September 1997 – April 1999
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byDarcy Bradbury
Succeeded byLee Sachs
Personal details
Born (1957-10-18) October 18, 1957 (age 64)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
(m. 1986; died 2006)
Children3
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS, MBA)

Gary Gensler (born October 18, 1957) is an American government official and former investment banker serving as the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[1] Gensler previously led the Biden–Harris transition's Federal Reserve, Banking, and Securities Regulators agency review team.[2] He is also a professor in the practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Gensler served as the 11th chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, under President Barack Obama, from May 26, 2009 to January 3, 2014. He was the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance (1999–2001), and the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Markets (1997–1999). Prior to his career in the federal government, Gensler worked at Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner and co-head of finance. Gensler also served as the CFO for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign.[3]

President Joe Biden nominated Gensler to serve as 33rd chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.[4] On March 11, 2021, his nomination was reported out of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Development Committee by a vote of 14–10.[5] On April 14, 2021, his nomination was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 53–45 to fill former chair Jay Clayton's term expiring in June 2021.[6] On April 19, 2021, the Senate confirmed Gensler to a 5-year term through 2026 by a vote of 54–45.[7] He succeeded SEC Acting Chair, Allison Lee.

Early life and education

Gensler was born into a Jewish family,[8] in Baltimore, Maryland, one of five children of Jane (née Tilles) and Sam Gensler.[9] Sam Gensler was a cigarette and pinball machine vendor to local bars,[10] and he provided Gensler with his first exposure to the real-world side of finance when Sam would take Gensler to the bars of Baltimore to count nickels from the vending machines.[8]

Gensler graduated from Pikesville High School in 1975,[11] where he was later given a Distinguished Alumnus award.[12] Gensler graduated with a degree in economics, summa cum laude, after three years at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania,[13] followed by a master's in business administration the following year.[11] Gensler's identical twin brother also studied at the University of Pennsylvania.[14] As an undergraduate, Gensler joined the University of Pennsylvania crew team as a coxswain, dropping his weight to 112 pounds to keep the boat at its proper weight.[11]

Business career

In 1979, Gensler joined Goldman Sachs, where he spent 18 years.[15] At 30, Gensler became one of the youngest persons to have made partner at the firm at the time.[16] He spent the 1980s working as a top mergers and acquisitions banker, having assumed responsibility for Goldman's efforts in advising media companies.[17] He subsequently made the transition to trading and finance[18] in Tokyo,[10] where he directed the firm's fixed income and currency trading.[17]

While at Goldman Sachs, Gensler led a team that advised the National Football League in capturing the then-most lucrative deal in television history, when the NFL secured a $3.6 billion deal selling television sports rights.[19]

Gensler's last role at Goldman Sachs was co-head of finance, responsible for controllers and treasury worldwide.[20] Gensler left Goldman after 18 years[21] when he was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.[13]

Gensler served on the board of for-profit university Strayer Education, Inc. from 2001 to 2009.[22]

Public service

Gensler has served in various governmental roles since the 1990s.

Treasury Department

Gensler served in the United States Department of the Treasury as Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets from 1997 to 1999, then as Undersecretary for Domestic Finance from 1999 to 2001. As Assistant Secretary, Gensler served as a senior advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury in developing and implementing the federal government's policies for debt management and the sale of U.S. government securities.[17] In 1999 and 2000, under then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, Gensler fought for passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted over-the-counter derivatives from regulation.[23]

As Undersecretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Gensler advised and assisted Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers on aspects of domestic finance, including formulating policy and legislation in the areas of financial institutions, public debt management, capital markets, government financial management services, federal lending, fiscal affairs, government sponsored enterprises, and community development.[17]

While serving at the Treasury Department, Gensler was awarded the agency's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Award, for his service.[13]

Sarbanes-Oxley

In 2001, Gensler joined the staff of U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, as a senior advisor and helped write the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which tightened accounting standards in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.[16]

CFTC

Then-President-elect Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Gensler to serve as the 11th chairman of the CFTC on December 18, 2008.[20] His nomination was officially sent to the U.S. Senate on January 20, 2009.[24] After some initial opposition to Gensler's nomination amongst the progressive members of the Democratic caucus, Gensler was approved by the U.S. Senate in an 88–6 confirmation vote.[16][25] Gensler was sworn in on May 26, 2009, pledging to work to "urgently close the gaps in our laws to bring much-needed transparency and regulation to the over-the-counter derivatives market to lower risks, strengthen market integrity and protect investors."[26]

Gensler was described as "one of the leading reformers after the financial crisis."[10]

Swaps

During Gensler's tenure at the CFTC, he worked closely with the Obama Administration, United States Congress and other regulators to transform the $400 trillion financial derivatives markets that were at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.[27] Upon becoming chairman, Gensler began leading the Obama Administration's effort "to start policing the Wild West of finance: the murky market for over-the-counter derivatives."[16] When the Treasury Department released draft legislation to bring regulatory oversight to the swaps market, Gensler sent a letter to Congress arguing that the proposal did not go far enough.[28]

By the spring of 2010, the momentum in Congress was toward Gensler's vision for derivatives oversight,[15] and Congress passed comprehensive reform as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July 2010.

After the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, Gensler led the CFTC's effort to write the rules required to regulate the swaps markets.[29] He oversaw the agency as it wrote 68 new rules, orders and guidances[30] and as its reach extended from a $35 trillion futures market to a $400 trillion swaps market.[10] Under Gensler, the bipartisan commission reached unanimous votes to approve more than 70 percent of the agency's rulemakings.[10] By the time Gensler left the CFTC in January 2014, the agency was near completion of the rule-writing process to implement the Dodd-Frank Act.[31]

Enforcement and Libor investigation

Gensler led a revitalization of the enforcement division of the agency, most notably in its prosecution of an enforcement case regarding manipulation of Libor, the London interbank offered rate.[32]

Early in his tenure, Gensler listened to tape recordings of two Barclays employees as they discussed plans to report false interest rates in an effort to manipulate Libor.[32] Libor is the average interest rate estimated by leading banks in London that the average leading bank would be charged if borrowing from other banks.[33] It is used as a reference rate for many financial products, including adjustable rate mortgages, student loans, and car payments.[8]

"A driving force behind the latest crackdown tied to LIBOR,"[8] Gensler worked with enforcement division director David Meister and his team to lead the investigative effort and brought charges against five financial institutions for the manipulation of Libor and other benchmark interest rates, resulting in more than $1.7 billion in penalties.[13] Barclays alone paid $450 million in fines as a result of the Libor investigation.[8] Gensler has called Libor "unsustainable" and argued that it should be replaced as a benchmark rate.[34]

Frankel Fiduciary Prize

For his work to reform the financial regulatory system, The Institute for the Fiduciary Standard awarded Gensler with the 2014 Tamar Frankel Fiduciary Prize.[35]

Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission

In 2017, Gensler was selected by the Maryland Senate President and House Speaker to serve as Chairman of the Maryland Financial Consumer Protection Commission, which assessed the impact of potential changes to federal financial industry laws, regulations, budgets, and policies on the state.[36] Under Gensler's leadership, the Commission recommended changes to State law to enhance consumer financial protections, including enhancing standards of care, clarifying State law to set standards for student loan servicers, and protecting Maryland buyers of manufactured homes. In 2018, student loan legislation recommended by the Commission established a student loan ombudsman, added the federal Military Lending Act and the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to state law, increased civil monetary penalties for violations, and codified some modifications on debt collection laws.[37] In 2019, the state enacted additional Commission-recommended legislation to create a Student Borrower Bill of Rights to protect students from predatory practices.[38]

SEC

In November 2020, Gensler was named a volunteer member of the Joe Biden presidential transition Agency Review Team to support transition efforts related to the Federal Reserve, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.[39] Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network event in June 2021, Gensler emphasized the need for new restrictions and rules to reduce the risk of improper insider trading.[40] In September 2021, Gensler remarked to the Washington Post that most cryptocurrency projects dealing with securities should fall under the regulatory purview of the SEC, though the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, of which he was a former chair, was better suited for some others.[41]

Also in September 2021, Gensler testified before the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee that the SEC was in need of large staffing increases to address regulatory concerns related to cryptocurrencies and other digital assets,[42][43] and also announced the imminent release of a commission report on the GameStop short squeeze earlier in the year.[44][45][46] In October 2021, eight whistleblower complaints alleging securities fraud by Facebook, Inc. were filed anonymously with the SEC by Whistleblower Aid on behalf of former company employee Frances Haugen after Haugen leaked thousands of company documents to The Wall Street Journal the previous month.[47][48][49] After publicly revealing her identity on 60 Minutes,[50][51] Haugen testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security about the content of the leaked documents and the complaints.[52][53] After the company renamed itself as Meta Platforms,[54] Whistleblower Aid filed two additional securities fraud complaints with the SEC against the company on behalf of Haugen in February 2022.[55]

Also in October 2021, the SEC approved the first bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the United States after Gensler announced support for doing so the previous August.[56][57] Gensler is opposed to approving pure play bitcoin ETFs due to bitcoin remaining subject to fraud and manipulation.[58] In November 2021, Tesla, Inc. CEO Elon Musk posted a tweet on his Twitter account that conducted a poll of his followers over whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock,[59] and Musk sold approximately $10 billion worth of his Tesla shares by the beginning of the following month.[60][61] In December 2021, the SEC opened an investigation of Tesla in response to a whistleblower complaint alleging the company did not properly disclose to its shareholders fire risks associated with its solar panels.[62] In response to record stock sales by CEOs (including Musk) and other corporate executives,[63] Gensler proposed an agency rule for a mandatory 120-day window for corporate executives who are changing existing or adopting new portfolio managements plans.[64] The Economist identified the risks presented by decentralised finance and crypto-assets valued at $2.5 trillion as a challenge for Gensler in 2022, and noted his experience in teaching blockchain technology.[65]

On February 7, 2022, the SEC issued a subpoena to Tesla for information about company governance policies to comply with an October 2018 settlement with the agency in a securities fraud lawsuit over a tweet Musk posted on his account about taking Tesla private in August 2018 that the agency subsequently requested that Musk be held in contempt of court for violating in February 2019 (that resulted in an amended settlement the following April),[list 1] and that the agency sent letters to the company in 2019 and in 2020 warning the company that tweets Musk posted in July 2019 and May 2020 were in violation of.[list 2] On February 11, the SEC met to discuss more than 50 proposed rules changes (focused primarily on hedge funds and private equity) including a requirement that the disclosure documents of stock corporations must include a written statement of company cybersecurity risk management policies and disclosure of any cyberattacks.[58]

On February 17, Musk's attorneys filed a letter with the presiding judge in the 2018 settlement alleging that the SEC was attempting to chill his First Amendment right to freedom of speech and that the SEC had failed to pay Tesla shareholders the $40 million in fines the agency had assessed from him and the company under the terms of the settlement,[79][80] which the SEC disputed in a letter filed with the court in response on February 18.[81][82] On February 21, Musk's attorneys filed a second letter with the court alleging the SEC had illegally leaked information from an investigation into him.[83][84] On February 24, Southern New York U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan issued an order rejecting requests made by Musk in his February 21 letter,[85] while the SEC was in the process of conducting an insider trading investigation of Musk and his brother Kimbal Musk for a $108 million sale of Tesla stock before Elon's November 2021 tweet.[86][87]

On March 8, Musk filed a motion with the court to have the 2018 settlement with the SEC terminated.[88][89] On March 21, the SEC approved rules requiring the disclosure of stock corporation climate risks and net contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.[90][91] On March 22, the SEC filed a response to Musk's March 8 filing requesting that Judge Nathan deny Musk's motion, that its subpoenas were lawful, and disclosed that the agency was investigating Musk for his November 2021 tweet.[92] On March 29, Musk filed another letter with the court reiterating his First Amendment concerns.[93][94] In March 2022, The Wall Street Journal criticised Gensler for proposing legislation requiring public companies to disclose climate risks. "The proposal ... is contrary to SEC history, securities law, and sound regulatory practice," the paper wrote. It accused the SEC chairman of trying "to regulate private companies by the back door" and following the bidding of BlackRock and other investors.[95]

On April 4, Gensler announced that the SEC would begin to register and regulate cryptocurrency exchanges at a University of Pennsylvania Law School students association conference.[96] On the same day, Elon Musk submitted a 13G filing with the SEC to purchase a 9.2% passive ownership stake in Twitter, Inc.,[97][98] but then submitted a Schedule 13D beneficial ownership filing reserving the right to purchase a larger stake in the company with the agency the next day (and because the disclosure was filed later than an SEC deadline, it may have made Musk an additional $156 million).[99][100][101] On April 13, a group of Twitter shareholders filed a lawsuit against Musk for failing to disclose his ownership stake to the SEC within the agency's prescribed deadline.[102] On April 14, Musk filed an offer to buy Twitter, Inc. with the SEC for $43 billion and take the company private (which was revised a week later to $46.5 billion).[103][104]

On April 15, Northern California U.S. District Court Judge Edward M. Chen ruled in a lawsuit filed by Tesla shareholders against Musk and the company that his August 2018 tweet was a knowingly made false statement of fact (the day after Musk stated at the 2022 TED conference that it was not).[105][106] On April 22, Republican Conference members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to the Twitter board of directors requesting that company executives preserve all company records related to Musk's acquisition proposal.[107] On April 25, the Twitter board of directors unanimously agreed to Musk's acquisition proposal at $44 billion.[108][109] On April 27, Southern New York U.S. District Court Judge Lewis J. Liman denied Musk's motion to terminate the 2018 settlement.[110][111] On April 30, Musk filed an amicus brief along with Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban in support of a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court by a former chief financial officer at Xerox to review a 2003 settlement the Xerox CFO made with the SEC that includes a gag order that the plaintiff argues is in violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.[112]

On May 3, the SEC announced that it would double the size of its staff in its Enforcement Division's Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit.[113] On May 13, Musk posted a tweet that his acquisition of Twitter would be put on hold until statistics about spambots and fake accounts on Twitter were verified,[114][115] while the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission began investigations of Musk for violating filing deadlines for his Twitter passive ownership stake and his subsequent company acquisition proposal respectively.[116] On May 16, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal posted a tweet detailing company policies for addressing fake and spam accounts in response to Musk (to which Musk posted a tweet in return).[117] On May 17, Musk tweeted that the Twitter acquisition would not move forward until he had greater clarification about the ratio of fake and spam accounts on the site,[118] later tweeting a poll of his followers' opinions of Twitter, Inc. statements about the ratio of fake and spam accounts in filings to the SEC (and where Musk posted a comment in the poll thread calling upon the SEC to investigate whether the company's statements disclosing the ratio in filings to the agency are true).[119][120]

On the same day, Twitter submitted a new filing with the SEC that stated that Musk had met with Twitter executives for three days before he announced his acquisition proposal.[121][122] On May 18, Gensler testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government requesting an even greater increase to its appropriation in the 2023 U.S. federal budget than the 8 percent increase proposed by President Biden.[123] On May 24, Reuters reported that since the April 2019 amended settlement between Musk and the SEC, agency officials have consciously chosen not to pursue legal action against Musk for violating the terms of the agreement and to write letters urging compliance instead due to remarks made by the presiding judge during the case.[124] On May 25, Twitter shareholders filed a class action lawsuit against Musk and Twitter, Inc. alleging market manipulation and violation of California corporate laws.[125]

On the same day, the SEC proposed two rules changes to ESG investment fund qualifications to prevent greenwashing marketing practices and to increase disclosure requirements for achieving ESG impacts.[126] On June 3, a dozen political advocacy groups (including the Center for Countering Digital Hate, GLAAD, and MediaJustice) announced a campaign to block Musk's Twitter acquisition proposal by pressuring government agencies to review the acquisition, persuading Tesla shareholders to take legal action against the proposal, and asking advertisers to boycott the platform.[127] On June 6, Musk's attorneys disclosed a letter to the SEC accusing Twitter executives of a material breach of contract due to lack of information provided about fake and spam accounts and claimed to reserve Musk's right to terminate the merger agreement (despite Musk waiving due diligence in his offers to buy the company in April).[128][129] On June 8, Gensler announced rules changes to require that market makers disclose more data about payments for order flow (PFOF) and the timing for the best execution of trades, as well as to require direct competition among stockbrokers executing trades for retail investors at a conference hosted by Piper Sandler Companies.[130][131] On June 10, the SEC was reportedly investigating the ESG investment funds of Goldman Sachs for potential greenwashing.[132]

Author

Outside of Gensler's business and public service career, Gensler has co-authored a book with Greg Baer, a fellow Clinton Administration alum, The Great Mutual Fund Trap. The book uses empirical data to show that the average mutual fund consistently underperforms the market.[133] The book argues that actively-traded mutual funds carry high fees and lower-than-market returns, and investors should instead rely on low-fee index funds rather than constantly attempt to beat the market.

Political involvement

Gensler served as treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party for two years,[11] and held several senior roles on the Maryland campaigns of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, former Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Governor Martin O'Malley.[134] During the 2008 presidential campaign cycle, Gensler served as a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and later advised the Obama campaign.[134] In May 2015, Gensler was named chief financial officer of Clinton's campaign for president.[135]

Academic

Gensler is Professor of the Practice of Global Economics and Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, Co-Director of MIT’s Fintech@CSAIL and Senior Advisor to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative.[136] He focuses on the intersection of finance and technology, conducts research and teaches on blockchain technology,[137] digital currencies, financial technology, and public policy. He is a member of the New York Fed Fintech Advisory Group, a group of experts in financial technology that regularly presents views and perspectives on the topic to the president of the New York Fed.[138]

Gensler won the MIT Sloan Outstanding Teacher Award based upon student nominations for the 2018-19 academic year.[136]

Personal life

Gensler lives in Baltimore with his three daughters, Anna, Lee and Isabel.[8] Gensler was married to filmmaker and photo collagist Francesca Danieli from 1986 until her death from breast cancer in 2006.[139]

Gensler is a runner and has finished nine marathons[10] and one 50-mile ultramarathon.[134] He also is a mountain climber, having summited Mt. Rainier and Mt. Kilimanjaro.[134]

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Bundled references

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Political offices
Preceded by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Markets
1997–1998
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Preceded by Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance
1999–2001
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Preceded by Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
2009–2014
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Preceded by Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission
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