On May 6, 2021, new SEC Chair Gary Gensler made his debut, giving testimony to the House Financial Services Committee. Although Mr. Gensler is not new to regulatory leadership – he was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – and as such, his style is certainly not new to capital markets participants, the testimony was nonetheless very enlightening of the mindset of the new SEC regime. The purpose of the testimony was particularly related to the market volatility in January, including GameStop and AMC, and reactions to that trading frenzy including Robinhood’s temporary trading restrictions, but over four hours, touched on much more.
From thirty thousand feet, Gensler attributes the January volatility to an intersection of finance and technology. On a more granular level, he highlights: (i) gamification and user experience; (ii) payment for order flow; (iii) equity market structure; (iv) short selling and market transparency; (v) social media; (vi) market plumbing – i.e., clearance and settlement; and