June 17: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and the Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Services Subcommittee will hold a joint session to discuss the role, responsibilities and resource needs of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in overseeing energy and agricultural futures and derivatives at 10:30 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 192.
Why it matters: It will provide another indication of Senate sentiment toward Acting CFTC Chairman Walter L. Lukken, who has been nominated to be chairman and will be the first witness. Although ostensibly about agriculture as well, four of the second panel's five witnesses are related to energy. They include James E. Newsome, president of the New York Mercantile Exchange, and Charles A. Vice, who holds the same position at the InterContinental Exchange.
Committee members such as Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) of Agriculture and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee, will likely press Lukken to act more aggressively in getting ICE to disclose more information about transactions. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who has said he does not support Lukken's nomination, also could be on hand as an Appropriations Committee member, even though he's not part of the subcommittee holding this joint hearing.
Two other senators, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Me.), urged the CFTC on June 12 to begin using authority contained in its original 1999 no-action letter to the International Petroleum Exchange, ICE's predecessor, to begin collecting information directly from ICE about all oil and gas transactions on that exchange instead of settling for indirect data filtered through Britain's Financial Services Authority. "It's time for ICE to name names. The CFTC has the legal authority to find out who these large traders are and whether as few as three to four organizations are driving the market," Cantwell said.
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