CFTC nominees on track for confirmation

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission appears poised to refill its ranks, as a trio of nominees faced no discernable opposition at a confirmation hearing Thursday.

Among those looking to join the Wall Street regulator, is Timothy Massad, a former top Treasury official tapped to lead the agency after the exit of its former head, Gary Gensler.

Appearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Massad vowed to take a tough stance at the regulator, calling strict enforcement a top priority.

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“There is nothing more important than a robust enforcement program in order to protect the integrity of our financial markets,” he said. “Strong enforcement is vital to maintaining the public’s confidence.”

Massad most recently helped the Treasury Department make its exit from a slew of government bailout programs from the financial crisis, as the department’s assistant secretary for financial stability. But he emphasized his years of work as a private attorney to justify taking control of the watchdog overseeing the complex derivatives marketplace.

Massad said he had “extensive experience” dealing with the financial tools as a partner at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he helped companies structure deals involving the instruments. The president nominated Massad to take over the agency in November.

Much of Gensler’s tenure was spent helping the CFTC gear up to take on widely expanded responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. That Wall Street overhaul placed the first-ever oversight of the multitrillion-dollar derivatives marketplace in the hands of the CFTC.

Massad said most of the rules implementing the laws have been completed, leaving the job now to make sure they are enforced fairly.

“Now the commission must make sure the rules work, that participants comply with the requirements,” he said.

Massad appeared alongside a pair of nominees to join the CFTC as commissioners — Sharon Bowen and J. Christopher Giancarlo.

None of the senators in attendance showed signs of any profound concerns about any of the picks, as most simply sought to place the nominees on the record on matters like the importance of derivatives to end users, like farmers, or the role of speculators in the market. The hearing ended after roughly half an hour.

The nominees also vowed to take steps to ensure that investor funds would be protected if commodity firms collapsed. The high-profile failures of firms MF Global and Peregrine Financial, which both put investor dollars at risk, has been the subject of congressional queries since their failures.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the committee, said after the hearing she hoped to move the nominees quickly, adding that a panel vote could come by the end of March.