March 13, 2017 / 3:34 PM / 5 months ago

Acting CFTC chair hoping agency budget will stay flat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As many U.S. government agencies are girding for possible steep cuts in their annual budgets, the top U.S. derivatives regulator on Monday signaled he was optimistic about the possibility of keeping his agency's budget flat.

"I'm optimistic by nature," Acting Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Chris Giancarlo told Reuters on the sidelines of the Institute of International Bankers annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Giancarlo's comments come just days before U.S. President Donald Trump is slated to unveil his fiscal 2018 budget.

The administration has been mum on details, but it has said Trump wants to boost military spending by $54 billion and seek equivalent cuts in non-defense discretionary programs.

Several agencies, including the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, have been asked to prepare scenarios for steep reductions, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

The CFTC's $250 million budget is entirely funded through congressional appropriations, and so could well be among the many government agencies to face a possible cut.

Any major cuts could pose a challenge to the agency, which in 2010 won broad new powers to police the bulk of over-the-counter derivatives marketplace.

Giancarlo declined to discuss any details about the CFTC's talks with the White House over the budget.

When asked if there may be cuts, he said it was "too early to say" and he pointed to signs that suggest the status quo may be preserved.

A bill considered in Congress last year to reauthorize the CFTC but never signed into law, for instance, proposed to keep the agency's funding flat, he said. In addition, he pointed to comments Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts made in November, in which Roberts said there was no more money.

"He didn't say there is less - he said there is no more," Giancarlo said.

"As a businessman who ran a division at my former firm, I'll work with the budget that is given (to) me. I'll do what needs to be done to pursue our mission."

The five-member CFTC is currently down to just two members - Giancarlo, a Republican, and Sharon Bowen, a Democrat - which makes it hard for the CFTC to adopt any substantive new rules.

Giancarlo said Monday he expects the CFTC will wait until Trump nominates, and the Senate confirms, three new commissioners before it decides whether to adopt rules imposing limits on the number of contracts that speculative traders who place bets in the futures and swaps markets can hold.

"Once it moves forward, it will be on the basis of a new commission," he said.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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