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White House to put forward three nominations, helping to fill CFTC vacancies

Highlights

Formally unveils plans to make Behnam permanent chairman

Commission faced period ahead with two members

The White House Sept. 13 announced plans to nominate three commissioners to the five-member US Commodity Futures Tradition Commission, potentially helping to avoid a long period of dwindling numbers on the five-member commission, which regulates commodity derivatives.

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With the planned departure of Democrat Dan Berkovitz in mid-October, the regulator risked having only two members, with Biden not yet having put forward nominations to replace two Republicans who stepped down previously this year — former Chairman Heath Tarbert and, more recently, Republican Commissioner Brian Quintenz.

The agency, which plays an important role overseeing energy sector derivates, currently has two Democrats and one Republican.

Biden Sept. 13 announced the intent to nominate two new commissioners, Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero. As expected, he also announced his intent to nominate the acting chairman, Rostin Behnam, to be the permanent chairman.

Two new names

Johnson, a professor at Emory University School of Law, works on financial market risk management law and policy "with specialization in the regulation of complex financial products," the White House said.

Her background also includes work in a private sector law practice and a clerkship with Judge Joseph Greenaway of the District Court of New Jersey.

Goldsmith Romero is a special inspector general at the Troubled Asset Relief Program, leading investigations into federal programs responding to the financial crisis, the White House said. Former President Barack Obama nominated her for that post. She also has been an adjunct professor of law, has worked in the private sector, and served as an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Both John and Goldsmith Romero are Democrats.

In announcing plans to nominate Behnam to permanent chair, the White House emphasized Behnam's efforts to foster public and private partnerships, to prioritize consumer safeguards, as well as his efforts to address climate-related financial market risk. Behnam, a Democrat, first joined the commission in 2017 and gained attention for helping launch a major report by a stakeholder group examining climate-related risk that backed an economy-wide price on carbon. Under his leadership, the CFTC has created a new climate risk unit within the agency to focus on the role of derivatives in addressing climate risk and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Berkovitz said Sept. 9 that he will step down Oct. 15 to "turn to other challenges," a move that put additional pressure on the White House to put forward nominations.

With only two members, the CFTC can still act if both members, making up a majority, are in agreement, but its activity could be slowed. By staying on until the end of the fiscal year, Berkovitz enables the agency to get through a busy period for enforcement actions and settlements.

All three nominations would require Senate confirmation; the addition of another, Republican nominee from the White House would likely help ease that confirmation process. Commissioner Dawn Stump is currently the only Republican on the commission.