The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Gary Gensler, outspoken Wall Street critic, confirmed to lead the SEC

The one-time Goldman Sachs partner is eyeing an ambitious agenda to reverse Trump-era deregulation

Gary Gensler takes the helm of the SEC as the agency confronts a series of market-rattling events. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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The Senate confirmed Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, voting 53-to-45 to install the Wall Street critic and aggressive regulator as the financial sector’s leading watchdog in Washington.

Gensler is taking the helm of the agency as the Biden administration seeks stricter oversight and enforcement of financial interests following years of Trump-era deregulation.

He already has laid out an ambitious agenda, signaling he will push rules forcing companies to disclose more about their climate risks and political spending.

“In 2021, there’s tens of trillions of dollars of invested assets that are looking for more information about climate risk,” Gensler said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month. “And I think then the SEC has a role to play to bring some consistency and comparability to those guidelines.”

The agency is also confronting a series of market-rattling events, from the retail trading frenzy around so-called meme stocks like GameStop to the boom in special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and the fallout from the collapse of the hedge fund Archegos Capital Management.

Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs partner who remade himself as an industry scourge leading the Commodity Futures Trading Commission after the 2008 financial crisis, pledged to take a bipartisan approach at the SEC. And he earned an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said they expected him to be “a balanced leader of the SEC and strong supporter of competitive capital markets.”

But only three Senate Republicans backed his confirmation: Susan Collins (Maine), Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), and Cynthia M. Lummis (Wyo.).