Budgetary battles

It’s the time of year when US lawmakers summon federal regulators to Capitol Hill to defend their annual budget requests, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is not immune.

CFTC chairman Timothy Massad was grilled by not one, but two committees in the House of Representative last week.

First up was the House Appropriations committee, where Massad defended the CFTC’s request for a budget increase. The chairman of the subcommittee, Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama) pointed out that the CFTC had seen one of the biggest budgetary increases since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, even as US debt mounts.

“I’m simply looking at the needs,” Massad said. Without more funds, “We’ll miss things,” Massad said. “We won’t  be able to respond to industry as quickly.”

Ranking Democrat Sam Farr (California) rode to Massad’s rescue, pointing out that the budget for the Capitol Hill police is higher than what the CFTC is requesting.  “They have a four-block jurisdiction,” Farr told Massad. “It seems to me from your testimony you have worldwide responsibilities. Our cops have four blocks and their budget is $356mn. You are asking for $322mn, less than the Capitol police.”

Massad returned to the Hill the following morning to occupy the hotseat again, this time before the House Agriculture Committee. Massad assured lawmakers that the agency would weigh concerns from end-users before pressing ahead with new regulations on position limits.

The agency is likely to get an ear-full about position limits next week, when it will host an industry panel to discuss how the proposals will impact energy and environmental markets. The panel, which is required by US law (the Dodd-Frank Act to be precise) to meet at least twice a year, will meet on 26 February for the first time.

The committee will be led by CFTC commissioner Christopher Giancarlo, who has criticized the agency’s proposed position limits as hastily considered.

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