After a week of rumors, President-elect Joe Biden officially announced that MIT digital currency and blockchain professor Gary Gensler will be appointed chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Biden Transition Team highlighted Gensler’s history of leading financial markets reform going back more than 20 years.
This included two years as senior advisor to Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) in writing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a major financial reform bill that came in the wake of a number of huge financial scandals, including Enron. Also known as the “Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act,” it included a number of ethical and legal reforms, ranging from strengthened financial disclosures to tougher white collar criminal penalties.
And as chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2009 to 2014, the announcement noted that Gensler led “the Obama-Biden Administration’s reform of the $400 trillion swaps market.”
The New York Times referred to it as helping “rein in big banks during the financial crisis a decade ago.”
Gensler also served as assistant secretary of the treasury for financial markets from 1997 to 1999 and under secretary of the treasury for domestic finance from 1999 to 2001, an economic advisor to the 2008 Obama campaign, and as CFO of the 2016 presidential campaign for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). He started his career at Goldman Sachs, co-heading its Finance division.
Government to crypto
Currently, as a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Gensler is co-director of the Fintech@CSAIL, a program that brings together mainstream financial companies including Citi, State Street, and Fidelity with cryptocurrency and blockchain firms ConsenSys and Ripple, as well as the Bank for International Settlement and Nasdaq. It focuses on issues ranging from AI and machine learning to privacy/anonymity and “trusted shared public ledger systems.”
In that post, Gensler argued that it is “plausible… that you could have a digital currency that does not have a central authority.”
He also served as Senior Advisor to the MIT Digital Currency Initiative.
As Modern Consensus reported last week, Gensler’s tenure at the SEC will likely be much more crypto-focused than Trump Administration Chairman Jay Clayton’s, which was heavily criticized for failing to provide clear rules of the road for the cryptocurrency industry.
In response to the Biden team’s announcement, blockchain intelligence firm CipherTrace tweeted that it expects to “see much greater clarity on market structure and infrastructure for crypto assets” from Gensler. There is also widespread hope that he will approve the bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETF) that Clayton blocked.