“Gary Gensler squeezed into a Washington auditorium last month, mingling with the 300 guests at his farewell party and basking in the attention as a who’s who of finance recounted his campaign to rein in Wall Street risk-taking.
“Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, for one, described the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as one of the leading reformers after the financial crisis, according to people who attended the event. Mark Wetjen, a commissioner at the agency who occasionally sparred with Mr. Gensler, remarked that a mutual friend was fond of calling him “a force of nature,” a depiction that elicited knowing nods from a crowd that included Ben S. Bernanke, the departing head of the Federal Reserve, and Jeffrey C. Sprecher, whose company owns the New York Stock Exchange.
“But even as Mr. Gensler’s aggressive streak thrust the once-backwater agency into the front lines of reform, it also maddened colleagues and complicated his legacy. And now that his tenure is ending on Friday, the agency has reached an inflection point, prompting Wall Street to hope for a friendlier regulator.
“President Obama has appointed Timothy G. Massad, a Treasury Department official with a blank slate for a regulatory agenda, as Mr. Gensler’s successor.
“Aside from their slender frames and retreating hairlines, Mr. Massad and Mr. Gensler might bear little resemblance. While Mr. Gensler had his finger on every button, Mr. Massad could take a more conciliatory stance. Mr. Massad, who oversaw the winding down of the bank bailouts, will also face renewed pressure to appease lobbyists and congressional Republicans.
“’There’s no question Wall Street sees an opening to roll back reform,’ said Dennis M. Kelleher, the head of Better Markets, an advocacy group. ‘But Massad is no fool; he knows he’s going to be judged by the very high standards set by Gary Gensler.’”
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