President-elect Joe Biden nominated Gary Gensler to serve as the commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Rohit Chopra to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a Monday statement.
Gensler and Chopra are both allies of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Currently a member of the Federal Trade Commission, Chopra will – if confirmed – return to the CFPB, where he previously worked as its top student loan watchdog. The nomination of Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs executive turned ferocious advocate for stricter regulation on big banks, is a signal that Biden’s team is poised to take a harder line with Wall Street than previous administrations.
The choices are a victory for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, which has led the charge for more aggressive oversight of the financial industry. Chopra was in on the ground floor with Warren, who built the CFPB as part of the Dodd-Frank law passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis. Gensler worked in the Obama administration for a time as the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where he earned a reputation as a hardliner on regulatory matters.
“These tireless public servants will be a key part of our agenda to build back better — and I am confident they will help make meaningful change and move our country forward,” Biden said in the statement.
As word of the picks emerged on Sunday night, progressive groups and others committed to lessening Wall Street’s influence in Washington celebrated.
“There are a lot of financiers who get incredibly rich taking advantage of lax ‘regulators’ of both parties in order to essentially defraud the American people. Those people are nervously conducting Zooms with high priced lawyers right now,” said Jeff Hauser, head of the Revolving Door Project. “Biden’s financial regulatory regime right now is exactly what he needs to produce tangible, positive results for everyone who is not a slimy banker.”
Chopra was among the names of preferred potential nominees listed early on in the transition by the Progressive Change Institute, which was founded by the same duo who formed the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a Warren-aligned group.
“If Biden selects someone of Rohit Chopra’s gravitas to lead the CFPB, that would be a big win for consumers and a sign that executive power will be used to get tangible results for the American people,” the PCCC tweeted on Sunday night. “Rohit has a proven record of challenging corporate abuse on behalf of everyday families who don’t want to be cheated.”
The selection of Chopra, who held the Student Loan Ombudsman title during his time at the CFPB, will also boost confidence among progressive leaders who have been pushing Biden to act swiftly and ambitiously to address the student debt crisis.
Warren and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, have called for Biden to use his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower. Biden, though, has appeared reluctant to meet that figure or bypass the Congress with his more limited proposal of $10,000 per person.
But he has called on lawmakers to act and plans, through his Department of Education, to extend the current pause on student loan payments.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.