Gary Gensler’s three priorities on his first day as head of the S.E.C.

By Ephrat Livni

Gary Gensler, the new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, was sworn in on Saturday. That makes Monday the first day on the job for the former M.I.T. professor, commodities regulator and Goldman Sachs banker.

“Every day I will be animated by our mission: protecting investors, facilitating capital formation, and promoting fair, orderly, and efficient markets,” Mr. Gensler said in a statement. He didn’t offer specifics, but the S.E.C.’s recent activities suggest three major priorities, the DealBook newsletter reports.

The S.E.C. has increased its focus on environmental, social and governance issues. It is responding to the increase in investor demand for company disclosures on things like climate-related risks, board and leadership diversity and political donations. Most recently, it issued a risk alert about the “lack of standardized and precise” definitions of E.S.G. products and services. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Gensler appeared inclined toward more expansive disclosures, noting that “it’s the investor community that gets to decide” what is material.

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have been proliferating, raising many regulatory concerns. These include “risks from fees, conflicts, and sponsor compensation, from celebrity sponsorship and the potential for retail participation drawn by baseless hype, and the sheer amount of capital pouring into the SPACs,” John Coates, the acting director of the S.E.C.’s corporate finance division, said in a statement. Given Mr. Gensler’s strong enforcement credentials, many predict more scrutiny of SPACs in the months ahead.

The mainstreaming of cryptocurrency is something Mr. Gensler will also have to address. He was confirmed on the day that the crypto exchange Coinbase went public, signaling a new era of legitimacy at a time when crypto rules are in flux. Blockchain executives and their growing lobby said that they welcomed working with Mr. Gensler, who is more versed in financial technology than most other policymakers. Clarity on when a digital asset qualifies as a commodity or a security tops Coinbase’s wish list, according to its chief counsel, Paul Grewal: He’s “hopeful” about Mr. Gensler’s tenure, noting that he will be informed and engaged on crypto issues, “even if we won’t always agree.”

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