UPDATE 1-U.S. swaps regulator names Wetjen acting head
WASHINGTON Dec 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. derivatives regulator on Monday said Commissioner Mark Wetjen would bridge a leadership gap at the agency just as it starts to oversee the $630 trillion swaps market for the first time.
Wetjen, a Democratic member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission since October 2011, was once considered a candidate to lead the agency, but his name dropped off the short list early this year.
President Barack Obama has nominated Timothy Massad, an official at the Department of the Treasury to be the CFTC's next chairman, but a confirmation hearing in the Senate will not take place before early next year.
Wetjen, a former staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will fill the position as acting chairman once current Chairman Gary Gensler leaves at the end of the year.
The CFTC, long a little known agency overseeing agriculture futures, has been put in charge of the swaps markets and still needs to write some of its planned rules for one of the most lucrative businesses on Wall Street.
Gensler has pushed through thousands of pages of new regulations in recent years, and the world's largest investment banks such as JPMorgan and Bank of America are now registered with the agency.
As acting chairman, Wetjen is not expected to make major changes in the CFTC's policy of rapidly implementing the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law designed to avoid a repeat of costly taxpayer bail-outs.
There will be three vacancies at the five-member CFTC next year, so Wetjen would lead a two-member commission until Massad is sworn in.
While Wetjen has voted along with other Democrats on the Commission, some Wall Street critics would like to see him go after big banks more aggressively.
Gensler is a former Goldman Sachs banker, but some Wall Street critics in Washington have praised him for taking an aggressive stance toward large banks, and for closing loopholes in the rules.
The Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the CFTC, has said it will not meet to confirm Massad before the new year. It is widely expected to take up the three nominations at the agency in one session.