Gary Gensler is Biden's likely pick to lead SEC

Zachary Warmbrodt and Tyler Pager

Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler will likely be President-elect Joe Biden's pick to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, four sources familiar with the matter said, a move that would energize progressives clamoring for appointees willing to challenge big business.

While Gensler spent his early career rising to the rank of partner at Goldman Sachs, he became best known for imposing sweeping rules on banks as the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission after the 2008 financial crisis.

In that role, he rattled the nation's largest banks, which lobbied against his efforts and sued to stop him. They'll probably be disappointed that he's on the way back to oversee their trading operations.

"Finance best serves the economy when markets operate under common-sense rules of the road," Gensler said in 2013 before leaving the agency.

Gensler, now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led the Biden transition's review of financial regulatory agencies, including the SEC and the Federal Reserve. He previously served in President Bill Clinton's Treasury Department and as the chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

When he headed the CFTC under President Barack Obama, Gensler spearheaded efforts to impose a mountain of rules on the market for financial derivatives known as swaps, which fueled the 2008 banking crisis since they were traded without regulation. His initial appointment to the CFTC was opposed by progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), but he left as one of the government's most consequential regulators following the meltdown.

If selected, Gensler would take the helm of a much larger agency that has an even bigger influence on the economy through its regulation of the stock market and private securities. The SEC adopted a largely pro-business stance during the Trump administration, and Democrats plan to press the independent agency to draft a number of new rules, including mandatory disclosures of climate risks at corporations and potentially political spending disclosures.

Gensler did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Biden transition declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the Democrat who will lead SEC oversight as chair of the Banking Committee, said he had spoken with Biden's potential SEC nominees. Under Biden, Brown said he expected there will be a "more pro-consumer attitude" and a "more antagonistic" approach to Wall Street at financial regulatory agencies.

Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.