Garlinghouse's rebuke highlights the battle Gensler's waged as head of an agency that views the cypto industry as flagrantly noncompliant with its rules. "Crypto firms should do their work within the bounds of the law, or they shouldn't do it at all," the agency said in its statement.
Sitting in his sunlit Washington office, the walls adorned with black-and-white photos and family art, Gensler, who at 66 still has a marathoner's build, waves off critics and questions about the future. He says what he so often has since becoming the face of Wall Street regulation in the Biden era: Protecting investors is good for the country.
"Ultimately, we are here for the investors and the issuers, and trying to drive greater competition and efficiency in that market in the middle," Gensler says.
Gensler's term — if President Joe Biden wins re-election — runs through 2026.
Nearly everyone who follows Gensler says he wants to go down as the most consequential SEC chair since Joseph Kennedy. Which is saying something, seeing as Joe Kennedy, father of John F. Kennedy, was the very first chair of the SEC, the one brought in during the dark days of the Depression to root out fraudsters and get-rich-quick schemers and restore America's faith in Wall Street.
Gensler insists, over and over, that he's not racing any clock. But after one career on Wall Street, and well into a second in Washington, time is short.
If former President Donald Trump or another Republican wins the White House in November, Gensler, like many Democrats, will likely be forced to move on. If Biden prevails, Gensler might serve out his SEC term into 2026, at which point he'll be pushing 70.
Former staff describe Gensler as an intense leader, pushing people to move faster, closing off backdoor channels to finance-industry lobbyists (many of them former SEC staffers) and discouraging gossip, that valuable Washington currency.
In fact, the SEC inspector general said in a 2022 report that Gensler's grueling pace was adding to agencywide burnout. That, plus staff attrition, might expose SEC rules to legal challenges down the road, the report concluded. A follow-on IG report noted that 2023 was the year that external hires significantly surpassed departures. An outside nonprofit group also has ranked the SEC as the third best midsize federal agency at which to work.
Gensler contends the commission had to move quickly. The financial industry has faced "consequential, existential issues" since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said in the recent interview. Any SEC chair would've been obligated to respond, he adds.
And Gensler has responded, with a rule-making agenda packed with 50-odd items. More than half of those plans have been finalized.
Going forward, the commission will stay within the "chalk lines" set by courts, Gensler said in the interview, while noting Congress has granted the SEC "strong authorities." The SEC undertakes rule-making "consistent with its authorities and laws governing the administrative process," the agency added in its statement. "We will vigorously defend challenged rules in court."Wall Street tends to complain that rules just get in the way, at least when its profits are at stake. Industry lobbyists warn regulation will strangle capitalism's animal spirit.