Gensler’s Personal E-Mail Use at CFTC Faces Republican Scrutiny

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler is drawing congressional scrutiny over his use of personal e-mail for work including communication during the collapse of MF Global Holdings Ltd.

Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking Gensler to provide all e-mail from non-official accounts relating to his job overseeing derivatives markets, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

The committee is seeking e-mails since Jan. 1, 2009, to “better understand whether your use of personal e-mail to conduct official business was mere imprudence, or part of a larger scheme to defeat federal transparency laws,” Issa wrote to Gensler in the letter dated yesterday. “There is little discernible explanation for your use of personal e-mail to conduct official business.”

E-mail use by Gensler was highlighted in a CFTC inspector general report into the collapse of MF Global, the brokerage that filed for bankruptcy in October 2011 and initially reported a client-fund shortfall of $1.6 billion. The report, released May 21, cited more than 7,000 instances of personal e-mails related to MF Global including duplicates and message chains.

“The CFTC OIG made no formal conclusions regarding whether Chairman Gensler’s email use violated CFTC policy,” Judy Ringle, attorney-adviser in the CFTC inspector general’s office, said yesterday.

Steve Adamske, the CFTC’s spokesman, declined to comment on Issa’s letter.

Official Business

During the weekend before MF Global collapsed, Gensler exclusively used his personal e-mail account to communicate about the company then run by Jon S. Corzine, who was chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when Gensler worked for the firm. Gensler had used personal e-mail consistently since he arrived at the agency in 2009 to set meetings and have discussions about official business.

CFTC policy instructs employees not to e-mail or forward sensitive documents to personal e-mail addresses or devices, according to the report.

“In reviewing hundreds of e-mail messages using the chairman’s personal e-mail address, we found nothing that appeared corrupt, and he has since ceased this practice,” CFTC Inspector General A. Roy Lavik said in the report.

The use of personal e-mail “may implicate an attempt to insulate your correspondence from Freedom of Information Act requests” and may violate federal record retention laws, Issa wrote to Gensler, who worked in the Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton and served as an adviser to Democratic lawmakers before being named to lead the CFTC by President Barack Obama.

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