SEC's Atkins Tapped for Commodities Regulator

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Longtime securities regulator Paul S. Atkins is under serious consideration to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to two people briefed on the process.

Atkins, a former corporate lawyer and accounting firm partner, has served as one of five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission since 2002. His SEC term expires next year.

In the post-Enron era, Atkins has advocated for a careful analysis of costs and unintended consequences before adopting new rules, a position that prompted him to vote against increased oversight of hedge funds. He chafed under the SEC leadership of fellow Republican William H. Donaldson but has expressed support for Donaldson's replacement as SEC chairman, former Republican representative Christopher Cox (Calif.).

Atkins did not return an e-mail requesting comment on his interest in the CFTC post. His candidacy was reported yesterday on the Financial Times Web site. The current CFTC chairman, Reuben Jeffery III, has been nominated to serve as undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

The CFTC oversees the rapidly growing market for derivatives, complex financial contracts whose value is based on an underlying commodity. The CFTC chairman holds a seat at the table on the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, a key policymaking body. The post requires formal nomination by President Bush as well as Senate confirmation.

Michael Greenberger, a former CFTC official in the Clinton administration, said it was "terribly important for someone experienced to be at the helm" at a time when market analysts increasingly warn that bad bets on derivatives could lead to a market meltdown.

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