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Acting Chairman Giancarlo Sets New KISS Agenda For CFTC

J. Christopher Giancarlo, Acting Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), will be nominated to serve as chairman, the White House said Tuesday, and he quickly laid out his plans for a "new agenda" at the regulatory agency.

To be "consistent with the goals of the Trump administration...CFTC must reinterpret its regulatory mission," Giancarlo said at the International Futures Industry Conference in Boca Raton, FL, Wednesday. That reinterpretation will come through a three-part agenda, he said: fostering economic growth, enhancing U.S. financial markets, and right-sizing its regulatory footprint.

To foster economic growth, CFTC will reduce excessive regulatory burdens, Giancarlo said. Last month, President Trump signed an executive order requiring every agency of the federal government toestablish a regulatory reform task force to identify regulations that should be repealed or modified.

"Although not strictly bound by the executive order, I am today announcing the launch of Project KISS, which stands for 'Keep It Simple, Stupid,'" Giancarlo said. The project, which will be lead by Giancarlo's chief of staff, Mike Gill, "will be an agency-wide review of CFTC rules, regulations and practices, to make them simpler, less burdensome and less costly." The agency plans to issue a call for recommendations to achieve those goals, he said.

CFTC will also undergo organizational restructuring, moving its market surveillance branch into the Division of Enforcement and reorganizing elements within its Division of Market Oversight, and creating a chief market intelligence officer who will report directly to the agency's chairman.

To enhance U.S. financial markets, CFTC will push for calibration of bank capital charges, and take steps to fix flawed swaps trading rules and work more effectively with international regulatory counterparts, Giancarlo said.

For the last six years, CFTC has been operating "at a breakneck pace, driven by Dodd-Frank's mandate for swift rule interpretation," Giancarlo said. "That mandate was the justification for a considerable amount of expediency in rule adoption and agency process. But the era of Dodd-Frank implementation at the CFTC is now drawing to a close." The agency expects to "resume normalized operations and practices. That means a return to greater care and precision in rule drafting."

CFTC will focus on its core mission -- fostering open, transparent, competitive and financially sound markets for the trading of derivatives -- and will "run a tighter ship," based on an ongoing budget review that "has already identified several areas in which the agency can run more efficiently."

Within minutes of Trump taking the oath of office Jan. 20, CFTC announced that then-Commissioner Giancarlo had been designated as acting chairman of the regulatory agency. On Tuesday, the White House said President Trump intends to nominate Giancarlo chairman of CFTC.

Giancarlo succeeded Timothy Massad, who had tendered his resignation to then-President Obama, effective Jan. 20. Giancarlo, a Republican and frequent critic of CFTC decisions under Massad, was a brokerage firm executive before being appointed to CFTC in 2014. Massad's resignation left only two commissioners at CFTC -- Giancarlo and Sharon Bowen, a Democrat confirmed in 2014 -- which could create a logjam, since there would not be enough commissioners to constitute a quorum. There can be as many as five CFTC commissioners, with no more than three from any political party serving simultaneously, so -- assuming Giancarlo and Bowen stay on board --  Trump could nominate as many as two more Republicans and one Democrat to fill the vacant seats.

That's a situation similar to the one at FERC, where only two commissioners currently preside. While it has been reported thatTrump plans to nominate at least two, but possibly three, individuals to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a long-anticipated move that would restore the Commission's quorum and allow it to continue with its work, including the approval of oil and natural gas pipelines, the administration has yet to announce any FERC nominations.    FERC has been without a quorum since last month's departure of Norman Bay, who had served as the Commission's chairman before announcing his resignation in January. Trump then named Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to serve as acting chairman.

New CFTC and FERC commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate.

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