President Barack Obama said he will nominate Mark P. Wetjen, senior policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid since 2004, to become a member of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Wetjen, whose nomination is subject to Senate confirmation, would replace Michael V. Dunn, a Democrat whose term expires June 19. The CFTC, which is writing derivatives regulations under the Dodd-Frank Act, currently has three Democrats including Chairman Gary Gensler and two Republican members.
“He is a true phenomenon whose profound understanding of the complexities of how the market affects consumers, taxpayers and homeowners will benefit our nation tremendously,” Reid said in a statement. “I look forward to his swift confirmation.”
Wetjen, who worked as a lawyer in private practice in Nevada and California before joining Reid’s office, received a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and a law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City, according to the White House statement.
If confirmed, he will join an agency that is writing rules for the $583 trillion global over-the-counter swaps market along with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agencies were directed to reduce risk and boost transparency after largely unregulated trades helped fuel the 2008 credit crisis that led to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and bailouts for firms including American International Group Inc.
Gensler has said the agency will miss the mid-July deadline for most rules with some slated for adoption later this year. Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed legislation to extend the deadlines until the end of 2012.
“This nomination comes at a crucial moment for our economy and our financial markets,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement. “CFTC Commissioners play an important role in writing the rules and making certain that those rules strengthen our markets.”
Dunn has questioned a CFTC proposal to curb speculation in commodities such as oil, wheat and natural gas that has split commissioners and prompted more than 12,000 comment letters.
“To date, CFTC staff has been unable to find any reliable economic analysis to support either the contention that excessive speculation is affecting the markets we regulate or that position limits will prevent excessive speculation,” Dunn said in a statement at a Jan. 13 CFTC meeting where he voted to propose the curbs to gather more information about the market.
Seventeen senators wrote the CFTC today urging the agency to implement the position limits.
“Congress gave the CFTC the power to rein in excessive oil speculation and the CFTC should use it,” Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, said in a statement released with the letter.