Biden Confirms Crypto-Savvy Gary Gensler Will Lead Financial Policy Transition Team

Gary Gensler, a Washington and Wall Street veteran who has closely studied the budding cryptocurrency field, will lead the financial policy transition team for projected U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

A former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Gensler was tapped to lead the agency review team for the Federal Reserve, banking and securities regulators, the Biden campaign formally announced Tuesday, following reports last week he was a contender.

As CFTC chairman, Gensler served as a key financial regulator for former President Barack Obama, spearheading new derivatives rules after the 2008 financial crisis. He also served in the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration.

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More recently, he has also testified before Congress about cryptocurrency and blockchain on multiple occasions, pushing back against comparisons between cryptocurrencies and Ponzi schemes and declaring that the still-unlaunched libra token met the requirements of being a security under U.S. law. At an MIT conference two years ago, he opined there was a “strong case” XRP, the cryptocurrency closely associated with startup Ripple, is a security. Gensler called blockchain technology a “change catalyst” in a 2019 op-ed for CoinDesk.

Gensler did not return a request for comment.

He was one of 500 individuals named Tuesday when the Biden-Harris transition team announced the members of the agency review teams who will evaluate the function of federal agencies and help ensure a smooth transition.

To be sure, incumbent President Donald Trump has contested the election results and has filed lawsuits in a handful of states seeking to have votes discounted due to alleged irregularities, though with little evidence so far.

Brain trust

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Also on the list for the Biden review team for financial regulators are several other policy experts who have paid careful attention to cryptocurrency, blockchains and related matters:

  • Simon Johnson, an economist and professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he led digital currency research. He was part of the Congressional Budget Office’s Panel of Economic Advisers from April 2009 to April 2015. Johnson has also co-authored a paper about the extensive impact blockchain technology can have on the financial world, and served on CoinDesk’s advisory board.

  • Chris Brummer, a law professor and the faculty director of Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law, is a familiar figure in the fintech sector who also testified before the U.S. Congress regarding Facebook’s libra project. Brummer was also nominated to serve as a commissioner on the CFTC under President Obama, but the nomination was reversed after the 2016 election.

  • Mehrsa Baradaran, a University of California at Irvine School of Law professor, specializes in banking law and also testified as an expert witness at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on regulatory frameworks for blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Baradaran has written extensively about inequalities in banking and is a critic of the idea that projects like Facebook’s libra could by default help expand financial inclusion.

  • Lev Menand, one of the original creators of the digital dollar concept, is an academic fellow and law professor at Columbia University. He served as a senior adviser to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in 2015-16 and has also worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s bank supervision group.

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