President-Elect Joe Biden has reportedly chosen former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commissioner, according to news reports.

Once dubbed the scourge of Wall Street, Gensler’s selection is already being cheered by the blockchain and digital currencies industries, which view him as a possible cheerleader for the sector.

“The probability of a Bitcoin ETF approval just went up significantly,” one broker-dealer executive who asked for anonymity told Financial Advisor magazine.

The former Goldman Sachs partner, who is now leading the Biden transition’s agency review team, was seen as a possible threat to sound regulation by some legislators when he was tapped by former President Obama to head the CFTC.

Progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) opposed his confirmation as CFTC head because Gensler fought for the deregulation of derivatives and opposed stricter rules for the financial instrument during his work as a staffer in the Clinton Treasury Department. That deregulation looked questionable after the 2008-2009 market meltdown, which was caused largely by Wall Street’s shady use of derivatives.

But once confirmed, Gensler became a tough securities cop, actually proposing and finalizing tougher derivatives regulations than the Obama administration sought.

Consumer advocates including Barbara Roper, director of investor relations at the Consumer Federation of America, are already signaling their support for a Gensler SEC.

“If true, this would be terrific news for investors,” Roper said. “Gary Gensler is a tough, seasoned regulator who knows how to move a regulatory agenda. While he was able to get bipartisan support for most of what he did at the CFTC, he’s not afraid to take partisan votes when that is necessary. He knows the markets as well as anyone on Wall Street, and he cares about investor protection.”

Whether Gensler would take up tougher fiduciary rules for the broker-dealer industry, as Biden and House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters have called for, remains to be seen. But he holds that promise for pro-fiduciary standard advocates such as Knut Rostad, president of the Institute for the Fiduciary Standard.

“Gary Gensler learned success in finance at the school of Goldman Sachs. Partner at 30. He went to Treasury and wrote a book on mutual funds that made Vanguard Founder Jack Bogle proud,” Rostad said. “He’s a unique and excellent pick to chair the SEC in 2021.”

Progressives are hoping the SEC will move swiftly to reverse President Trump’s deregulatory agenda and undo policy changes implemented by recently departed Chairman Jay Clayton. Those include reversing curbs on shareholders’ proxy rights and efforts to make it easier for private companies to raise capital without registering with the SEC. 

“We congratulate Gary Gensler on his apparent selection as the next SEC Chair,” Investment Adviser Association President and CEO Karen Barr said in a statement. “Mr. Gensler is a experienced regulator with a wealth of knowledge and expertise regarding securities regulation and markets. We look forward to working with him and his fellow Commissioners on the critical issues affecting investment advisers and their clients.”

Gensler recently taught a “BlockChain and Money” course for the Digital Currency Institute. The course, which begins with a review of Bitcoin, also explores the spectrum of public policy fundamentals.

Proponents are also touting Gensler as the bureaucrat who could successfully lead the SEC to require companies to report standardized, scientifically accurate measures of climate change. 

A Biden spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Gensler's chances of confirmation if selected have improved since Democrats swept two Georgia Senate runoff races last week, recapturing control of the chamber.

“Gary Gensler as chairman of the SEC is exactly what not only the SEC needs, but what investors who’ve been thrown to the wolves for the last four years need,” said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, which advocates stricter financial regulation. “He has the potential to return the SEC to the gold standard of investor protection.”

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