Gorfine, who stepped into the role of LabCFTC director and chief innovation officer of the commission in July, brings experience in-house with a fintech company, as a professor of fintech law and as legal counsel for a think tank.
"I've had a very deep interest in the nexus of law, policy and financial markets for awhile," Gorfine told Corporate Counsel in an interview earlier this month.
One of his main priorities has been to run LabCFTC, the fintech initiative that was introduced three months ago in hopes of giving companies in that sector greater access to the CFTC and to help identify the "friction points" between innovation and regulations.
The initiative came to fruition after months of talks from the CFTC, which had voiced its desire to act as a driver in fintech innovation. Earlier this year, then-acting chairman of the CFTC J. Christopher Giancarlo had named Jeffrey Bandman fintech adviser for the commission and directed him to explore opportunities through which the CFTC could best interact with fintechs.
After Bandman left for the private sector, Gorfine was appointed by Giancarlo to keep the LabCFTC momentum going. In the statement announcing his appointment, Giancarlo said Gorfine's expertise would help the commission "disrupt the status quo" and make it a "21st century regulator for our 21st century digital markets."
When asked about fintech in an August interview with The Wall Street Journal, Giancarlo, who was officially confirmed as chairman by the U.S. Senate earlier this month, emphasized that technology, is a "very important driver of economic growth and expansion."
"We want to foster American-based innovations in places like New York, Chicago, Silicon Valley and elsewhere, rather than London, Paris, Frankfurt, Singapore … [and] we want to see what in these new technologies will enable us to do a better job at our core mission," Giancarlo said of the CFTC's fintech goals.
LabCFTC's main hub is in New York City, which, as Gorfine put it, "is where the innovation is taking place." The commission held its first office hours in New York during the last week of July, and plans to host office hours via "road tours" in other cities in the near future.
"We've received very positive engagement so far," Gorfine said. "That ranges from established financial institutions to far younger startup entities looking to do innovative things."
He couldn't provide specific details of what the CFTC's conversations with fintechs have been like, but he said there has been a strong interest from both sides in enhancing blockchain technology and virtual currencies.
Gorfine is one in a group of three "core people" dedicated to LabCFTC within the commission but he noted it is a cross-divisional effort where various others have been and will be involved in learning about fintech.
"Concepts scale and gain adoption very rapidly," he said, naming payments and lending as two examples of where high growth has already occurred. "Because of that, it's really imperative that regulators are able to keep pace. Engagement is one of the things [necessary] to do that."
As for whether Gorfine expects the CFTC will see any direct changes in regulation as a result of the talks with fintechs, he's uncertain because he said they are in "listen and learn mode."
"We love and welcome learning about the existing regulatory framework and how it works with innovations. We want to hear more and we'll go from there," he said.
Gorfine said his work leading LabCFTC has been informed by various other roles. About six years ago, he started working as a director of financial markets policy and legal counsel at the Milken Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C., where he focused on financial innovation, capital access and financial market policy.
At the time, Gorfine said, fintech was a broader concept but digital payments and virtual currencies were quickly gaining attention.
Most recently, Gorfine spent more than two and a half years at fintech startup OnDeck, which offers online loans for small businesses. At OnDeck, Gorfine worked with about a dozen lawyers and acted as associate general counsel and VP of external affairs.
Gorfine said in his work with regulatory and public policy work at OnDeck, he "was able to help inform and support many cross-divisional internal business teams and initiatives." He considers some of the most important work at the company to have been its focus on "empowering small businesses through the creation of industry standards and best practices, including around model disclosures."
He also worked with OnDeck last year as it joined with other fintechs to create the Innovative Lending Platform Association, an industry trade association that Gorfine said "focused on advancing best practices that support responsible innovation."
Gorfine said that although OnDeck was not regulated by the CFTC, all of his experiences in the fintech space are proving helpful to his goal of leading its new fintech initiative "all while ensuring market integrity and facilitating market-enhancing innovation."