Massad Moves a Step Closer to Taking Helm of U.S. CFTC

Three nominees to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission moved a step closer to confirmation, which could still be stalled by senators’ mounting objections to one of the picks.

The Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the derivatives regulator, voted to support the nominations of Timothy Massad as chairman of the agency, and Sharon Y. Bowen and J. Christopher Giancarlo as commissioners. Approved as a package by the panel, they now head to the full Senate for a final vote.

Hours after the agriculture panel vote, Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, said he would seek to hold up Bowen’s final confirmation. By tradition, any senator with a serious concern about a nominee can place a hold on the nomination that stalls the process.

Vitter has clashed with Bowen about her role in overseeing a panel that ruled against compensation for victims of R. Allen Stanford’s fraud. Bowen is the acting chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corp., an industry-funded nonprofit that seeks to protect customers of failed brokerages.

“Under Bowen’s leadership, SIPC has completely failed to protect the Stanford Ponzi scheme victims, instead siding with its Wall Street members,” Vitter said in a statement today announcing that he would put a hold on her nomination. He said Bowen has not been responsive to the concerns of Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission as the head of the board of SIPC.

The CFTC, which oversees trading by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., BP Plc and other agricultural, energy and financial traders, is in a period of transition as it implements expanded oversight under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The agency has asked for more resources to add staff and technology it says are necessary to oversee markets and enforce the Dodd-Frank rules.

Gary Gensler stepped down as chairman of the agency when his term ended in January, and Bart Chilton, left the agency last month. Both are Democrats.

“I have yet to see someone who really has the kind of drive and spirit of either Chilton or Gensler,” Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said today at a Bloomberg Government Breakfast in Washington before the agriculture panel vote.

Bowen has also faced concerns from other senators.

Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat who also is not on the committee, is “carefully reviewing” Bowen’s nomination and is “seriously concerned” about how Stanford victims were treated, according to Matthew Lehner, the senator’s spokesman.

Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, said he opposes Bowen’s confirmation, which was advanced by the committee on a voice vote, because he doesn’t think she is qualified for the job.

“She does not have the knowledge required to be a commissioner for the CFTC,” Chambliss said in a statement after the vote. He said Bowen lacks a background in futures markets, which are regulated by the CFTC.

“We need the most qualified regulators available to navigate these complex and uncertain markets,” Chambliss said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.