Friday, December 17, 2021

Behnam confirmed as CFTC Chair; White House nominates two for CFTC Commissioner

By Lene Powell, J.D.

At long last, Rostin Behnam has been confirmed by the Senate as the permanent chairman of the CFTC. Behnam has served as CFTC Acting Chair for almost a year. His confirmation was welcomed by Senate Agriculture Committee leadership and industry organizations.

Behnam has served as a CFTC commissioner for the past four years and as Acting Chair since January 22, having been elected to the latter position upon the administrative turnover in January. He was nominated for chair and a second term earlier this year.

On the same day, the Biden Administration announced its intent to nominate Summer Mersinger and Caroline Pham for CFTC commissioner. They join previously announced nominees Kristin Johnson and Christy Goldsmith Romero. If confirmed, together the four nominees will fill current vacancies and the pending departure of Commissioner Stump to constitute a full five-member Commission.

Bipartisan support for Chair Behnam. The new chair received strong bipartisan support in a statement from leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the CFTC.

“Russ’ expertise and experience have proven that he prioritizes the interests of customers and our agricultural industry. He has been a leading voice on the financial risks of the climate crisis, and will be tough on those who break the law,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), committee chairwoman. “I am glad my colleagues and I came together on a bipartisan basis to confirm this outstanding nominee.”

“Rostin Behnam can now finally shake the ‘acting’ title and officially take the helm at the CFTC. He has proven himself more than ready for the role while overseeing the agency pre-confirmation. I believe his understanding of agriculture will be a huge asset as chairman, and expect him to continue to bring a measured approach to regulating, which is critical for proper management of the wide range of financial products under the CFTC’s jurisdiction,” said Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), committee ranking member.

Industry Reaction. Behnam received support from key trade associations.

“FIA congratulates Russ Behnam on his confirmation to chair the CFTC. Chairman Behnam brings a depth of experience to the office that will serve the public well. He has been a principled advocate for safe, open and transparent markets, and FIA looks forward to working with Chairman Behnam and the Commission on the important issues facing our industry,” said Walt Lukken, president and CEO of FIA, the leading global trade organization for the futures, options and centrally cleared derivatives markets.

“We congratulate Rostin Behnam on his confirmation as Chairman of the CFTC. We look forward to working with Mr. Behnam on issues that enhance and maintain the integrity of our capital markets and wish him success in this role,” said Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr., SIFMA president and CEO.

New nominations for Commissioner. The White House announced its intent to nominate two candidates for CFTC Commissioner.
  • Summer Mersinger has served as chief of staff to CFTC Commissioner Dawn D. Stump and as the director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. Previously, she spent 15 years on staff in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate for Congressman and then Senator, John Thune from South Dakota. Mersinger received her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her law degree in 2007 from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C.
  • Caroline Pham is currently a managing director at Citi, where she is head of market structure for strategic initiatives in Citi’s Institutional Clients Group. Pham represents Citi on the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Digital Commerce and has advised on prudential regulation and systemic risk, financial markets including currencies and commodities, fintech and digital assets, and environmental, social and governance (ESG). She has also led initiatives for Dodd-Frank Act implementation and other global financial regulatory reform. Pham previously served as special counsel and policy advisor to former CFTC Commissioner Scott O’Malia. She has a B.A. from UCLA and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.