When Gensler was nominated in 2009 to chair the CFTC, he faced criticism over his past support for deregulating derivatives, but he has largely assuaged the concerns that led senators to delay his confirmation. In an interview, Gensler referred often to the commission’s role in creating “commonsense rules of the road” for the financial markets, insisting that transparency benefits the markets as a whole. While Wall Street has resisted some of the commission’s efforts, Gensler notes that the majority of its rules have been bipartisan, with two-thirds of them being adopted unanimously.
A self-proclaimed “math geek,” he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wharton and went on to work at Goldman Sachs in 1979, rising to partner in 1988. He left the firm in 1997 after serving as cofinance officer, going on to serve in two senior roles in the Treasury Department during President Clinton’s second term. He was a senior adviser to then-Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., on what would become the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Gensler coauthored The Great Mutual Fund Trap with Gregory Baer and also served as treasurer of the Maryland Democratic Party. He aided the campaigns of three Maryland Democrats—Sen. Barbara Mikulski, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and Gov. Martin O’Malley. Gensler became a senior adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in mid-2007, and then spent the final four months of the race on the Obama team.
Asked whether he draws upon his private- or public-sector experience in his current role, Gensler responded with an emphatic yes. From his Wall Street days, he brings technical knowledge—which he says is “somewhat rusty”—and a sense of the organizational strategy of corporate finance, as well as project management skills. From his public-sector work, he says he has gained an understanding of the importance of communicating: “If you can’t explain something to your mom, if you can’t explain something clearly to the public, then you usually have to go back to square one and figure it out again.”
Gensler, 55, one of five siblings, was raised in Baltimore, where he currently resides. His identical twin brother, Robert Gensler, managed a global fund for T. Rowe Price. A widower and the father of three daughters, Gensler spends his free time running (he has completed nine marathons and one 50-mile race), mountain climbing (he and his daughter have summited Mt. Rainier and Kilimanjaro), and dancing.