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Published June 09, 2014, 09:46 AM

Commodity commission adds controversial member

WASHINGTON — The Senate on June 3 confirmed a new chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and two new commissioners, bringing the agency to a full complement of commissioners to regulate the commodities and futures businesses that play a major role in agriculture.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — The Senate on June 3 confirmed a new chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and two new commissioners, bringing the agency to a full complement of commissioners to regulate the commodities and futures businesses that play a major role in agriculture.

The Senate first confirmed Sharon Bowen by a vote of 48 to 46.

After approving Bowen, the Senate proceeded to vote on Timothy Massad, a Treasury official and Democrat, to become a commissioner and chairman of the commission, and Christopher Giancarlo, a Republican, to fill open positions.

Massad succeeds Gary Gensler, who served as chairman until his term was up at the end of 2013. Bowen succeeds Bart Chilton, whose term ended, and Jill Sommers, who resigned last year.

For the past several months, the commission has been composed of only two members, Mark Wetjen, a Democrat who has served as acting chairman, and Scott O’Malia, a Republican.

Futures Industry Association President and CEO Walt Lukken, a former commissioner, congratulated all three nominees immediately after their confirmation.

“I’m pleased that we now have a full slate of commissioners to take on the important work ahead for the CFTC,” Lukken said. “The derivatives industry plays a vital role in hedging risk and reducing price volatility, so it’s important that CFTC rule-making ensures a heal-thy, well-regulated and dynamic futures market.”

Only Bowen’s nomination was controversial. During her service on the Securities Investor Protection Corp., SIPC denied a request from victims of the $7 billion Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Allen Stanford, who is serving a 110-year prison sentence.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., defended Bowen’s nomination before the vote, noting that during her tenure SIPC has returned $24.5 billion to more than 9,000 investors, that she would be the first African-American female to serve on the CFTC and the only woman commissioner among the current group.

“I’m proud that my colleagues in the Senate gave their support to confirm Sharon Bowen as commissioner for the CFTC,” Stabenow said.

“Ms. Bowen is an accomplished public servant who recognizes the urgency and importance of protecting the markets and ensuring they are transparent and working as intended. The commission will benefit from Ms. Bowen’s experience and expertise, as will the farmers, ranchers and small businesses across the country who rely on the markets to hedge risk and continue growing their businesses.”

In remarks on the Senate floor after Massad and Giancarlo were confirmed, Stabenow praised the other commissioners.

Massad “has a sterling record of public service,” Stabenow said, noting he had been confirmed unanimously three years ago as Treasury assistant secretary for financial stability and in that position has overseen the wind-down of the assest relief program.

“It’s a tribute to Mr. Massad’s leadership that the banks that benefited from TARP have repaid nearly every dollar,” she said.

During his confirmation hearing testimony, Massad had signaled that he would be a strong enforcer and “will be an advocate for strong international regulatory standards in a global derivatives market,” Stabenow said.

She also noted that Giancarlo has worked in companies that focused on swaps markets regulated by the CFTC, particularly the G.F.I. Group.

During his testimony, Giancarlo emphasized the value of transparency in the swaps market and said he agrees “with most” of the provisions in the Dodd-Frank bill.

Stabenow also noted that the commission needs bigger appropriations to do its job properly and that the Senate Agriculture Committee is working on legislation to reauthorize the commission.

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