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Head of commodity futures agency quits

/ Source: The Associated Press

The head of the federal agency that regulates the nation’s commodity exchanges is resigning to take a top job at the New York Mercantile Exchange, it was announced Friday.

James Newsome, who was appointed by President Bush, has been chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission since December 2001 and was acting chairman for most of that year.

An announcement by the CFTC did not say where Newsome was going, only that his resignation was effective July 23.

But the NYMEX announced separately that he would become president on Aug. 2. Newsome will succeed J. Robert Collins, whose contract expired on June 30.

The NYMEX has trading in crude oil, gasoline and natural gas futures among other commodities.

During Newsome’s tenure, the CFTC was among a number of federal agencies that investigated activities of collapsed Enron Corp. It examined whether Enron manipulated markets with improper trading on commodity exchanges, notably the NYMEX, as well as the company’s own big online trading system. The Enron system, called EnronOnline, was the world’s first commodity trading platform based on the Web.

Under government ethics rules, Newsome had recused himself from participating in any CFTC action involving the NYMEX when he began discussing the job offer from the exchange, agency spokesmen said Friday. They didn’t say how long ago that was.

The other four CFTC commissioners are expected to designate one of their number as acting chairman until a new chairman is named by the president.