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  • March 02, 2021
The Senate Banking Committee will weigh Gary Gensler’s confirmation as the S.E.C. chairman in a virtual hearing.
Credit…Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

President Biden’s picks to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are laying out their regulatory agendas before the Senate Banking Committee.

Gary Gensler, the nominee to chair the S.E.C., and Rohit Chopra, the C.F.P.B. nominee, spoke about a number of consumer-centric topics, including transparency and accountability in the financial markets and protections for people dealing with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

The committee chairman, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, said both men were fitting picks to serve “at a time when so many people don’t feel like they have a voice in our economy.”

He added, “After years of allies of the largest corporations and the biggest banks running these agencies, and setting government up to fail, Mr. Chopra and Mr. Gensler are here to fight for everyone else.”

But Republicans will be challenging both nominees over their views of the limits of regulatory power. Pat Toomey, the ranking Republican, said he worried Mr. Gensler would push the bounds of the law to promote a progressive agenda including on climate change. He also described the agency Mr. Chopra was nominated to lead as “hyperactive.”

Senate Democrats told DealBook that they welcomed additional discussion on increased corporate disclosure:

  • “I’ll be carefully watching Gary Gensler’s answers on issues like climate risk disclosure, corporate diversity, and investor protection,” said Tina Smith of Minnesota.

  • Bob Menendez of New Jersey intends to ask about increased disclosure of corporate political spending, a representative said. He wants companies to reveal more about their donations and seek shareholder approval for spending.

  • Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is curious about the rules and limits on the timing and disclosure of insider stock trades.

And then there is GameStop. Mr. Brown railed against Wall Street during the meme-stock frenzy, and that episode is sure to come up on Tuesday. A representative for Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, said that he intended to ask Mr. Gensler about payment for order flow.

Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming and the first senator to invest in Bitcoin, will focus on the nominee’s commitment to “financial regulations that foster innovation,” according to a representative. Mr. Gensler, who teaches blockchain courses at M.I.T. and is also a former Goldman banker, should be game. Alluding to his job at the intersection of finance and technology, the banker-turned-regulator-turned-academic cautiously acknowledged the promise of fintech in his statement and said rules must evolve with new tools.

Republicans are also wary of Mr. Chopra, who would lead an agency whose enforcement powers had waned under President Trump.

Mr. Toomey said during Tuesday’s hearing that Mr. Chopra had been hostile to businesses in the past, including for-profit colleges. In his opening statement, Mr. Chopra focused on the challenges consumers face as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Consumers continue to discover serious errors on their credit reports or feel forced to make payments to debt collectors on bills they already paid or never owed to begin with, including for medical treatment related to Covid-19,” he said.

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