In brief

  • Gary Gensler, former partner at Goldman Sachs, became part of Biden’s transition team in November.
  • Reports that Gary Gensler is set to take over the SEC emerged last week.
  • Gary Gensler is probably the most crypto-informed person to lead the SEC.

The US President-elect Joe Biden today named his pick to lead the US Securities and Exchange Commission: former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler.

Gensler spent nearly 20 years at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s and 1990s before joining the Clinton administration as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. He later served as a key financial regulator for former President Barack Obama.

As the Chairman of the CFTC from 2009 to 2014, he spearheaded the passing of the Dodd-Frank law in 2010, which was intended to prevent another financial crisis.

In recent months Gensler advocated for a nationwide regulatory oversight of the crypto industry.

“If it gets broad adoption, if we really think the crypto world is going to be part of the future, it needs to come inside of public policy envelope,” Gensler said in a Bloomberg TV interview in 2018. “That means we need to guard against illicit activity. And yes, we need to protect investors. The crypto exchanges, big exchanges like Coinbase, need to come within the SEC or the CFTC.”

The Wall Street veteran is also known for his statements about XRP being a security, which means that the SEC’s crusade against Ripple, the company behind the token, is likely to continue.

However, as some experts suggest, his appointment could spell good news for the ill-fated Bitcoin ETFs.

“Gary Gensler deeply understands crypto & has strongly supported bitcoin for years. His selection as SEC chair signals a policy shift in favor of a bitcoin ETF. He also went on record in 2018 saying there's "a strong case" that XRP is a security, signaling no shift on that issue,” Jake Chervinsky, a lawyer and general counsel to decentralized finance startup Compound, said in a recent tweet.

In 2018, Gensler taught a course at MIT about how Bitcoin and blockchain could be used in finance. Later he also authored an op-ed for Coindesk, describing cryptocurrency as a “catalyst for change.”

"Shared blockchain applications might help jumpstart multiparty network solutions in fields that historically have been fragmented or resilient to change. Even in this slightly less ambitious form—acting as an innovative irritant to incumbents and traditional technologies—cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have already prompted real change and can continue to do so," he wrote in 2019.

Currently, Gensler is a Professor of the Practice of Global Economics and Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, Co-Director of MIT’s Fintech@CSAIL and Senior Advisor to the MIT Digital Currency Initiative, researching artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and new financial technologies.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred to Biden's announcement as a "confirmation" of Gensler's appointment. We regret the error.