President Joe Biden nominated an Emory professor and an Emory alumna to key trade positions on Sept. 13. Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law Kristin Johnson was nominated for commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Senior Fellow and Director of Congressional Affairs at the German Marshall Fund Reta Jo Lewis (89L) for president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. 

These nominations bolstered Biden’s attempts to shore up liberal majorities in two major federal agencies.

The CFTC regulates the U.S. derivative markets, including futures, swaps and other options. Financial options are stocks where their value depends on future estimates, not on current amounts. This allows holders to gamble on a company’s future prospects. The CFTC’s mission statement is to “promote the integrity, resilience, and vibrancy of the U.S. derivatives markets through sound regulation.” 

After a flurry of regulations at the end of last year, the agency has recently come under fire for lack of regulation of cryptocurrency markets. While the Biden administration has acknowledged this as a priority, partisan deadlock has prevented many new regulations from being enacted.

Kristin Johnson

Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law Kristin Johnson. Photo Courtesy of Emory University

Johnson is internationally recognized for her work on financial market regulation and corporate governance. Her recent work investigated new financial technologies such as blockchain and digital assets. 

Johnson’s nomination is expected to spur the commission to introduce new regulations for cryptocurrency and break the deadlock that has emerged, two priorities for a Biden administration eager to bring governmental control to the cryptocurrency market.

Johnson joined the University in 2021 after working as the McGlinchey Stafford Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty research at Tulane University School of Law (La.). Prior to her work at Tulane, Johnson was an analyst at Goldman Sachs and then an assistant general counsel at JPMorgan Chase, advising clients on foreign and domestic financial transactions. Johnson graduated from Georgetown University (D.C.) and the University of Michigan School of Law, and is an elected member of the American Law Institute and an American Bar Association Fellow.

Reta Jo Lewis

Senior Fellow and Director of Congressional Affairs at the German Marshall Fund Reta Jo Lewis (89L). Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1934, the Export-Import Bank supports U.S. exports through various programs, including guaranteeing loans to foreign buyers, credit insurance and direct lending to foreign companies. 

The bank previously came under fire from Republicans and was almost disbanded. However, a reversal by former President Donald Trump in 2020 led to the agency being renewed for seven years. U.S. companies became more supportive of the bank as Trump sought to decrease the U.S. trade deficit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Lewis will become the first person of color to lead the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

A 1989 Emory University School of Law graduate, Lewis holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia and a Master’s of Arts from American University (D.C.). 

Lewis is currently a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and serves as a Steering Committee member on the Leadership Council for Women in National Security. Previously, she was an attorney in private practice and served as special representative for global intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. State Department under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has also worked as a special assistant for political affairs to former President Bill Clinton.

Both Johnson and Lewis will need to be confirmed by the Senate in order to fill their roles. They have been asked by the White House to not give any comments at this time.