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CFTC chair steps down, academic Chris Brummer in lead to replace him: sources

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Heath Tarbert stepped down as Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) chair on Thursday, with Georgetown University academic Chris Brummer emerging as a leading candidate to replace him, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

The White House is expected to make a decision on that and other financial regulator roles soon, one of the people said. A White House spokesman and Brummer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Democratic CFTC commissioner Rostin Behnam will serve as acting chair, the agency said on Thursday. Tarbert, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to be both chair and one of five commissioners, will remain in his commission seat as he finalizes plans to return to the private sector.

Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission said on Thursday that Allison Lee, one of its Democratic commissioners, had been appointed acting chair pending Senate confirmation of Gary Gensler as full time chair.

Brummer is currently a Professor and Faculty Director of Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law, where he has researched digital technology, including cryptocurrencies, international finance and, more recently, the scarcity of Black financial regulators.

That research found that of the 327 financial regulators to have been appointed to posts requiring congressional confirmation, only 10 have been Black. It attracted widespread attention and boosted Brummer’s profile in Washington, including among lawmakers keen to see Biden pick diverse regulators.

Brummer was previously nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as commissioner at the CFTC, which oversees the swaps and futures markets, but his candidacy was subsequently withdrawn by Trump’s White House.

In addition to the CFTC chair, Brummer has been considered for other financial roles under the Biden administration, a fourth person said.

Dan Berkovitz and Behnam have also been in contention to replace Tarbert, Reuters reported. Berkovitz was formerly general counsel to Gensler when he led the CFTC. Gensler has been leading the Biden team’s financial regulatory transition.

Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Chris Reese, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio