Trump's pick to lead U.S. CFTC unveils major new policy agenda

WASHINGTON/BOCA RATON (Reuters) - The top U.S. derivatives regulator laid out plans on Wednesday for a sweeping overhaul of the agency that will include everything from cutting regulation to restructuring the unit that conducts surveillance for market abuses.

In a wide-ranging policy speech that drew a rare standing ovation from more than 1,000 industry participants, Acting Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, who was nominated by President Donald Trump as permanent chairman late Tuesday, said it was time for the CFTC to “reinterpret its regulatory mission” by focusing on fostering economic growth, enhancing U.S. markets, and “right-sizing” its regulatory footprint.

In prepared remarks before the Futures Industry Association’s annual conference in Boca Raton, Florida, he outlined plans to create a new initiative to help streamline regulation known as “Project KISS” and said he intends to restructure the CFTC’s market surveillance branch in an effort to strengthen how the agency polices the marketplace.

That unit, in charge of searching for manipulation and other abuses, is currently housed in the CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight. Giancarlo said it would be relocated inside the agency’s enforcement division to bolster how the CFTC polices the marketplace.

A new “chief market intelligence officer” position will also be created, he said, to help oversee a new branch that will be tasked with keeping pace with new trends and technology.


Giancarlo often has been highly critical of the way the CFTC has implemented rules stemming from the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.

In his speech, he pledged to fix what he called “flawed swaps trading rules” which he blamed for driving business away from the United States, and added that the he hopes to work more effectively with international regulators while still looking out for American interests.

He also promised to soon release the results of a review launched in January into the financial technology or fintech sector that seeks to understand what the CFTC’s role should be in regulating the sector.

Giancarlo, a Republican, has been acting chairman of the CFTC since Jan. 20 and first became a commissioner of the agency in 2014.

Throughout his tenure, he has been critical of the way the CFTC has implemented many of the new rules for over-the-counter derivatives that were mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

Going forward, he promised to take a much more active role in his position as a member of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), a body of regulators created by the Dodd-Frank law that reviews large financial firms to determine whether their collapse could pose broad systemic risks.

Once designated, a company faces an extra level of regulations and oversight.

Giancarlo accused the FSOC of failing to weigh the cumulative effect of regulations, particularly stricter bank capital standards which he said are harming market-making and economic growth.

“The CFTC must use its authority and influence to address the question of whether the amount of capital that bank regulators have caused financial institutions to take out of trading markets is at all calibrated to the amount of capital needed to be kept in global markets,” he said.

His new “Project KISS” initiative, which stands for “Keep it Simple Stupid,” represents an effort to follow the guidelines set out last month in an executive order by President Donald Trump which calls on agencies to conduct regulatory reviews.

As an independent agency, the CFTC is not bound by the order. Nevertheless, Giancarlo stressed the need to follow it, saying the project will entail a review “to make them simpler, less burdensome and less costly.”

Any efforts to make changes to rules, however, could take time. The five-member CFTC is down to only two commissioners - Giancarlo and Democrat Sharon Bowen.

U.S. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, who will be convening the confirmation hearing, praised Giancarlo on Wednesday as an “exceptional member” of the CFTC who is “well suited” for the job.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by John McCrank in Boca Raton, Florida; editing by Linda Stern and Phil Berlowitz