US SEC chief says government shutdown would reduce agency to 'skeletal' staff

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s top regulator on Wednesday told U.S. lawmakers that a looming shutdown of the federal government would reduce his agency’s staffing to “skeletal” levels.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler made the remark at the start of a testy hearing before the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, which Democrats used to highlight dysfunction they said would result if spending legislation is not approved this week.

“We’ll be down to a skeletal staff,” Gensler said during his testimony. “The public … won’t have somebody overseeing the market for companies that want to go public.”

Gensler also said some companies already floated on markets would be barred from issuing new shares.

According to the agency’s contingency planning, only about 440 of the SEC’s 4,600 employees would remain on hand to perform essential functions, but investigations and responses to whistleblower complaints would mostly grind to a halt.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed and a wide range of services will be suspended if Congress fails to pass funding legislation that Democratic President Joe Biden can sign into law by midnight on Saturday (0400 GMT on Sunday).

(Reporting by Douglas Gillison; Editing by Mark Porter and Paul Simao)

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