WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden's pick to head the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) will lay out his plans to lead the agency tasked with overseeing derivatives markets when he testifies before lawmakers Wednesday.
Rostin Behnam, a Democratic commissioner at the CFTC since 2017, will testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee, a significant first step in reinvigorating an agency seen as languishing for months without a permanent pick to head it.
In October, Democratic Commissioner Daniel Berkovitz stepped down, leaving the agency politically frozen with just two active commissioners - Behnam and Republican Commissioner Dawn Stump. Biden has also nominated law professor Kristin John to serve as a Democratic member, but she has not yet been confirmed.
The vacuum of permanent leadership has come at a difficult time for the regulator, responsible for overseeing swap markets as well as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are growing more popular and more closely tied with traditional financial markets. The CFTC's whistleblower program has also been in flux due to funding issues.
Behnam, who has been acting chairman at the agency, previously worked for Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.
Behnam has made climate issues a core of his work at the CFTC. In March, he set up a climate risk unit dedicated to better understanding and pricing climate-related risks into derivatives markets. He also backed a 2020 report from CFTC's industry advisors that called climate change a significant risk to the financial system.
(Reporting by Chris Prentice and Pete Schroeder; Editing by David Gregorio)