Top Gensler aide leaves U.S. derivatives regulator

WASHINGTON, March 8 Fri Mar 8, 2013 5:38pm EST

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) - The top U.S. derivatives regulator will lose a key aide who oversaw much of the agency's reform of Wall Street, just as it enters the crucial last phase of implementing the new rules.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) General Counsel Dan Berkovitz, who is 56, will leave at the end of the month to retire, the CFTC said on Friday.

A top aide to Chairman Gary Gensler, Berkovitz led the legal review of a host of new rules the agency was mandated to write through the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, an effort to avoid a repeat of the 2007-09 credit meltdown.

The law gave the Commission, once relatively unknown, vast new powers to regulate the $650 trillion derivatives market. It has since written rules for swap dealers to register, and for clearing houses to stand between buyers and sellers.

But the design of exchange-like trading platforms on which derivatives such as swaps must be traded remains outstanding, and a vote has repeatedly been delayed.

Berkovitz also played a central role in defending the CFTC against litigation challenging some of its new rules, for instance when two industry trade groups sought to block registration with the CFTC.

President Barack Obama has asked Gensler to serve a second term, according to a person familiar with the situation, but Gensler has not yet decided if he will stay.

The Democratic victory in last year's presidential election has changed the succession dynamics at the CFTC, scuppering chances of any Republican hopefuls. Commissioner Jill Sommers, a Republican, has since announced her departure.

Commissioner Mark Wetjen, a Democrat who worked for Senate majority leader Harry Reid, is seen as a possible successor to Gensler, should the latter leave.