Congressional lawmakers confirmed the nomination of Rostin Behnam, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who had been serving as acting chairperson, to assume his position on a more permanent basis.
In a Wednesday evening voice vote, members of the U.S. Senate approved President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the CFTC. Behnam has served as a commissioner since 2017 and acting chair following the departure of Heath Tarbert in January.
Confirmed by voice vote: Executive Calendar #539 Rostin Behnam to be Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.— Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) December 16, 2021
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in October, Behnam requested lawmakers consider expanding the authority of the CFTC, given the emerging digital asset market. He said that the CFTC had been “aggressively pursuing enforcement cases” in the crypto space, likening its approach to police officers doing their duty.
“Given the size, the scope and the scale of this emerging market, how it’s interfacing and affecting retail customers, and with the scale of the growth being so rapid, potential financial stability risks in the future, I think it’s critically important to have a primary cop on the beat,” said Behnam at the time.
The confirmation came the same day President Biden announced his picks for two additional commissioners at the CFTC. A Wednesday notice from the White House shows he plans to nominate Summer Mersinger and Citi managing director Caroline Pham to the regulatory body. Mersinger served as chief of staff to Commissioner Dawn Stump as well as the director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. Both must be confirmed by the Senate.
Only two commissioners are currently serving at the CFTC out of the normal five, and with the expected departure of Stump in February 2022, Biden will have the opportunity to completely reshape the Commission with four open positions. In December, the U.S. president announced he planned to nominate Emory University law professor Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero, a former senior counsel in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division.
Such a large change to the CFTC leadership could easily have an impact on the regulation and enforcement of the crypto space. Currently, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the CFTC and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network handle digital asset regulation in the country, but with different jurisdictional claims, resulting in a patchwork approach companies must navigate to legally operate. During Benham’s time as acting chair, the Commission slapped Tether and Bitfinex with a $42.5 million fine and reached a settlement with crypto exchange BitMEX to pay a $100 million civil monetary penalty.