Clearing the way for confirmation of James M. Stone as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the White House yesterday renominated veteran CFTC commissioner Read P. Dunn Jr.
Stone, former Massachusetts insurance commisoner, is to appear before the Senate Agriculture Committee for confirmation hearings today.
Although several senators have been critical of Stone's lack of experience in commodities, his nomination is expected to be approved now that Dunn's continued service on the CFTC has been assured.
Stone's nomination has been languishing on Capitol Hill for several months, while influential farm state senators lobbied the White House seeking to tie his confirmation to reappointment of Dunn.
All the Republicans on the Agriculture Committee and a few of the Democrats also have backed reappointment of acting CFTC chairman Gary Seevers, an economist who has run the agency since chairman William Bagley resigned last fall.
Senate sources said yesterday there is no personal objection to selection of Stone to direct the commodity regulatory agency, but considerable crticism of the Carter administration's decision to pick someone from outside the industry for the job.
The complex issues confronting the five-year-old regulatory agency have been dramatically emphasized recently by major irregularities in the wheat, potato and coffee futures markets. The agency has stepped into all three markets to head off manipulation of prices.
Stone, a 32-year-old Ph.D. who earned a reputation as a vigorous consumer advocate while overseeing the insurance industry in Massacheusetts, said yesterday he believes he has the background needed to run the CFTC.
"My strength is in financial economics and regulatory management," said Stone. "Financial economics is highly relevant training for many of the issues before the commission."
Among the major issues coming before the CFTC is a series of proposals to expand futures trading from its traditional base in agricultural commodities into financial instruments, with trading in futures for mortgages, treasury bills and stock price indexes.
The administrative operations of the CFTC have been criticized in the past, and Stone in Massachusetts turned a lackadaisical state regulatory agency into one of the major foes of the insurance industry.
It was Stone's reputation as a consumer advocate that got him the CFTC nomination and that role will be one of the issues coming up in his confirmation hearings.
Sentiment for a more aggressive stance by the CFTC is said to be increasing as a result of the commission's unprecedented decision last month to suspend wheat futures trading because of an attempt by a few speculators to corner the market.
Although industry sources complained that the CFTC's action eroded their traditional self-regulation, the agency and its supporters have argued that the federal regulators are finally developing the clout to deal with a rapidly growing and little regulated industry.