Lone Democrat on U.S. Swaps Regulator to Leave Before Term Ends

  • CFTC Commissioner Sharon Bowen to depart in next few months
  • She hopes announcement speeds nomination of her successor

Sharon Bowen, the only Democrat on the U.S. regulator in charge of overseeing a major chunk of the $483 trillion derivatives market, announced Tuesday that she’d leave her post before her term ends next year.

Bowen, who was appointed by Barack Obama, has been a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission since June 2014. By departing in the next few months, Bowen said she hoped to speed the process of getting open seats filled. Currently, Acting Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, a Republican, is the only other commissioner at the five-member agency.

“The work of this agency has been hampered by only having a two-person commission,” Bowen said during a meeting at the CFTC’s headquarters in Washington. “Without a full compliment of commissioners to consider the far-reaching implications of our decisions, we’re frozen in place while the markets we regulate are moving faster everyday.”

At times, Bowen has taken tough stances during her tenure that clashed with the financial industry. In 2015, she opposed a CFTC rule that benefited Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other banks by freeing them from having to post billions of dollars of collateral for certain derivatives trades. Bowen, a former securities lawyer, also took on high-frequency traders in November when she supported making it easier for regulators to access their secret algorithms. Just last month, in arguing for an increase to the CFTC’s budget she backed assessing fees on traders to fund the agency.

President Donald Trump has been aggressive in moving to fill open Republican seats at the CFTC, having nominated Giancarlo for chairman, as well as Dawn DeBerry Stump and Brian Quintenz for commissioner roles. No more than three members can be from the same political party and the administration hasn’t yet tapped any Democrats to join the CFTC.

Trump is considering nominating Russ Behnam, an Democratic Senate aide, to be a commissioner, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because no announcement has been made. The White House is collaborating with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer on picking Democratic CFTC candidates, another person said.

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