By Douwe Miedema
WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. derivatives regulator's top enforcer, best known for hunting down and imposing big fines on investment banks for manipulating the Libor interest rate benchmark, will be stepping down this month, the agency said on Tuesday.
The departure of David Meister, head of enforcement at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, comes as his close ally CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler's five-year term draws to a close at the end of the year without a clear candidate to replace him.
During Meister's nearly three years on the job, the CFTC filed a record number of actions against Wall Street.
Meister, who lives in New York with his family, said he was leaving the agency for personal reasons, and had not started searching for a new job. But he predicted there would be no let-up in the agency's active enforcement policy.
"We're in a new spot from where we were several years ago, particularly with the onset of Dodd-Frank," Meister told Reuters over the phone, referring to the law to overhaul Wall Street and prevent a repeat of the 2007-09 crisis.
The CFTC was long a sleepy agency overseeing agriculture futures, but took on a vastly increased role after the financial crisis.
Under Meister's leadership, the CFTC imposed fines totaling just under $1.3 billion on UBS, Barclays and RBS for their role in rigging the widely used Libor benchmark for interbank interest rates.
Further settlements with other banks are likely to come out in the coming months and the CFTC has also subpoenaed a host of firms over a related benchmark, known as ISDAfix. The two benchmarks together determine the price of swaps.
Gretchen Low, currently the enforcement division's chief counsel, will take over from Meister. Before that, she was an associate director in the division for more than 11 years.