In March 2021, Gensler's nomination to head the Securities and Exchange Commission was greeted with cheers and champagne from the crypto industry thrilled to have a regulator who at last understands the technology: during his time at MIT, Gensler conducted research and taught on blockchain and digital currencies. However, instead of a potential ally, the SEC's new boss became crypto's worst nightmare and number one nemesis.
Coincidentally, Gary Gensler's work for government agencies turned out to be extremely lucrative for a staunch anti-crypto crusader: according to Fox Business, his net worth skyrocketed 650% over the last decade while he worked primarily in lead public service roles.
So, how rich is the SEC chief, and, more importantly, how did he amass such impressive wealth? Read on to learn more about the career path of Gary Gensler, net worth, his education, personal life, and his stance on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Education and early life
Gary Gensler was born in 1957 into a middle-class Jewish family in Baltimore, USA. His father, Sam Gensler, was a vending machine small-business owner who first provided the future SEC's boss with real-life exposure to the world of finance: he would draft Gary to go around the Baltimore bars to count nickels from the vending machines.
From Gary's early years, it became evident that he had a natural talent for math and numbers. After finishing high school with honors, he went on to pursue a degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, from which Gensler graduated summa cum laude, followed by a master's in business administration from the same institution.
Gary Gensler has four siblings, including twin brother Rob. Gensler's identical twin brother also studied at the University of Pennsylvania and later pursued a career in finance as a fund manager.
Career and public service
After UPenn, Gensler joined Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he had a highly successful 18-year career, starting off as a mergers and acquisitions banker and overseeing the company's advisory business for media companies. He later transitioned to the trading and finance role, where he was responsible for Goldman's fixed income and currency trading efforts in Tokyo.
Gensler left Goldman after being nominated by President Bill Clinton to be the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Award for his service. He later worked as the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, an advisor for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, and a senior advisor for Senator Paul Sarbanes, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
In 2008, Gary Gensler was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the 11th chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the US government agency that regulates the US derivatives, including commodity futures, swaps, options, and OTC markets. During his tenure, Gensler pushed for greater oversight of the financial derivatives that were a central element of the 2008 financial crisis and played a central role in exposing the big banking scandal involving the manipulation of LIBOR, the London interbank offered rate. Charges brought by CTFC resulted in over $1.7 billion in corporate penalties.
In 2016, Gary Gensler was welcomed aboard again by Hillary Clinton's team as a Chief Financial Officer for her 2016 presidential campaign. Other than this, he co-authored a book called "The Great Mutual Fund Trap," where he takes a critical jab at his brother Rob's industry, discussing the hidden costs of hand-picked stock selections and their failure to beat the market in the long run.
In 2018, Gensler joined the MIT Sloan School of Management as a professor of the practice of global economics and management, teaching classes about blockchain, digital currencies, and other FinTech innovations. In an old video of his lecture, he used to speak fondly of blockchain as a technology that could one day support a decentralized ride-sharing service similar to Uber, citing Algorand as an example of such a platform. Ironically, Algorand's native token ALGO was named as one of the unregistered securities in the SEC's enforcement action against cryptocurrency exchange Bittrex in April 2023.
Appointment as the SEC Chair
In 2021, Gary Gensler succeeded SEC Acting Chair, Allison Lee, after being nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the 33rd chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His 5-year term through 2026 was confirmed in the US Senate by a vote of 54–45.
Shortly after his appointment, Gensler announced that his agency would start bringing crypto exchanges to heel, claiming that such platforms often engage in front running — an illegal practice of trading ahead of a client's order to capitalize on the anticipated market impact — and market making against the interests of their customers. The new SEC's chief also said that he plans to add 20 investigators and litigators to its cryptocurrency and cybersecurity enforcement unit.
Gensler's approach to crypto regulations
Gensler's stint as SEC's chief has been defined by a string of high-profile lawsuits against crypto companies, widely criticized as "regulation by enforcement" by industry leaders. The central complaint to such an approach is that instead of providing regulatory clarity on what constitutes a security in the digital assets context, the agency is continuously bombarding the companies with legal actions and fines, which creates an unpredictable and hostile environment for crypto businesses.
Gary Gensler, in turn, has long insisted that current securities regulations are sufficient to regulate the crypto industry. “We’ve been clear that most crypto tokens that are backed by entrepreneurs, among other features, are likely to be securities,” the SEC chief wrote in his opinion for The Hill. “We’ve been clear how lending and staking platforms come under the securities laws.”
To determine if an asset can be called a security, the SEC the so-called "Howey test," a legal standard derived from a 1946 Supreme Court case, that defines a security as "an investment of money in a common enterprise with profits to come solely from the efforts of others."
Applied to digital assets, however, the Howey test is open to multiple interpretations. For instance, in decentralized networks like Bitcoin or Ethereum, where no single entity controls the network, it's challenging to prove how the second prong — "a common enterprise" — can be satisfied. Similarly, the "profits that come from the efforts of others" criterion can't be tested in a traditional sense, as for decentralized projects, the value is often driven by the community's collective efforts, rather than the actions of a specific group or entity. On the other hand, for tokens issued through initial coin offerings (ICOs) or other fundraising mechanisms where the project's team lays out the roadmap with specific milestones to increase the token's value, the case can be made.
From the above information, it follows that all ICO currencies are securities in the SEC's view. Indeed, Gary Gensler has repeatedly claimed that the vast majority of crypto tokens and ICOs violate U.S. securities laws. But what about Ether, the second-biggest cryptocurrency that launched via an ICO in 2014?
In 2018, the SEC Director of Corporation Finance William Hinman said that Ethereum doesn't qualify as a security as there isn't a single group or entity that can be identified as being responsible for the cryptocurrency. Gary Gensler, however, has so far remained consistently vague about where the industry trailblazer falls. Having previously suggested that everything besides Bitcoin is a security, the SEC boss couldn't provide a coherent response about Ether's status even when pressured directly during the SEC Oversight hearing in Congress.
Unlike commodities, which fall under the authority of the CFTC, securities involve strict reporting requirements and disclosures to inform investors about potential risks. Unsurprisingly, most industry players insist that cryptocurrencies are commodities.
SEC's litigations against crypto companies
Under Gensler's leadership, the Securities and Exchange Commission has pursued dozens of enforcement actions against the most prominent crypto companies, namely Coinbase, Binance, Kraken, Genesis, and Gemini. These actions were widely decried by industry leaders, who claimed that the SEC's crackdown on crypto is stifling innovation and pushing firms to offshore jurisdictions.
In 2022, the SEC unveiled a barrage of charges against the two biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance and Coinbase, accusing both of selling unregistered securities to US investors, among other allegations.
The lawsuit against Binance and its then-CEO Changpeng "CZ" Zhao stated that the exchange misled investors about its ability to detect market manipulation as well as misused customer funds, sending some of that money to a company controlled by Zhao.
"Through thirteen charges, we allege that Zhao and Binance entities engaged in an extensive web of deception, conflicts of interest, lack of disclosure, and calculated evasion of the law," Gensler said in an official statement. "They attempted to evade U.S. securities laws by announcing sham controls that they disregarded behind the scenes so they could keep high-value U.S. customers on their platforms."
In November, Binance entered a landmark settlement with the US Department of Justice that involved paying a criminal fine and forfeiture of $4.3 billion, making a complete exit from the US, and accepting Zhao's resignation as CEO. On top of that, Zhao will pay a $50 million individual fine and has to still face the SEC's ongoing enforcement action.
Coinbase, meanwhile, continues its tug-of-war with the SEC, pressing it to respond to its rulemaking petition, which the agency has subsequently denied in a 3-2 vote. The exchange later said that it had petitioned the court for a review of the SEC's decision.
Gary Gensler's net worth 2024
As a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and renowned lecturer at MIT, Gary Gensler has amassed considerable wealth. According to Gensler's most recent financial filings obtained by Fox News Digital, he has a net worth of between $40 million and $116.2 million, which corresponds to a roughly 650% increase from between $15.5 million and $61.8 million in 2009, when Gensler has just started his government service.
As an American government official, Gary Gensler is obliged to make annual public financial disclosures with the Office of Government Ethics that list his sources of income to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
Earlier, in 2021, Bloomberg reported that Gary Gensler, then President Joe Biden’s nominee to be chairman of the SEC, is worth between $41 million and $119 million, which indicates that, despite an impressive uptick since 2009, his net worth remained virtually unchanged during his tenure as the SEC Chair.
According to Gary Gensler's spokesperson reached by Fox Business, the fluctuation of the SEC chairman's net worth was consistent with the US stock market growth, as the S&P 500 index added roughly 600% from 2009 to 2023.
How did Gary Gensler build his net worth?
Before his career in the federal government, Gary Gensler had a decades-long career at Goldman Sachs, so it comes as no surprise that much of his money comes from his years in the private sector. The SEC Chair has also disclosed his Goldman pension payout amount, which will pay out $977 per month starting at age 71.
At the time of writing, however, Gary Gensler’s main income comes from his role as SEC Acting Chair, which earns him over $300,000 per year. His recent financial disclosures also detail his other assets, namely a Maryland property worth between $500,000 and $1 million and shares in various exchange-traded funds (ETFs), with Vanguard's Total Market Index Fund ETF being his largest investment worth between $25 million and $50 million. On top of that, the SEC Chair has a number of employment assets and retirement accounts valued collectively between $3.1 million and $12 million.
Gary Gensler is a widower. He was married to an artist and filmmaker Francesca Danieli for twenty years until her death from breast cancer in 2006. Gensler has three adult daughters, Anna, 34, Lee, 33, and Isabel, 28.
One of the industry's least favorite, the SEC Chair Gary Gensler has spearheaded the crackdown on crypto in the United States, turning his agency into a crypto nemesis. But the backlash is brewing, and the crypto industry too has some powerful allies on Capitol Hill. Whose vision for the crypto regulation will prevail at last? Only time will tell, but it's already clear that the space is in dire need of a comprehensive legal foundation to protect investors from future FTX-like debacles.