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Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

In appearances this week, SEC chairman Gary Gensler laid the groundwork for his agency to play offense.

Why it matters: Phenomenons like SPACs and an explosion of retail trading have taken off over the last year, presenting new market realities for regulators to consider. On Wednesday, Gensler outlined plans for a broad review of the equity market's structure — with a goal of modernizing the rules of the game.

  • "Rules mostly adopted 16 years ago do not fully reflect today’s technology. I believe it’s appropriate to look at ways to freshen up the SEC’s rules," Gensler said in prepared remarks at the Global Exchange and FinTech Conference.
  • The comments followed an appearance at Monday's Wall Street Journal CFO Network Summit, where Gensler said he wanted to address market manipulation that takes place on social media, as well as insider trading.

Of note: One of the original meme stocks, GameStop, said Wednesday that the SEC is investigating trading activity in its shares — and those of other companies.

The big picture: Gensler had already indicated that he'd be a proactive chairman, as Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reported.

  • But yesterday's comments suggest a more sweeping review of the equity markets than he has previously telegraphed.
  • "This reflects the realities of market conditions ... and [Gensler's] agenda is very much investor protection, and broader market structure issues that could lead to victimization of investors," Ken Joseph, Duff & Phelps' head of Americas regulatory consulting, tells Axios.

The details: Gensler also doubled down on concerns he previously expressed about the gamification of trading, and payment for order flow at off-exchange wholesale market makers.

  • The shares of Virtu Financial, one of the wholesalers, fell 8% Wednesday.

As far as timing for actual rule-change proposals, he said "it should not be confused with something that is far off," the WSJ reports.

What to watch: Gensler's next move on insider stock transactions. He said Monday he wants to revise the rules governing insider stock-buying arrangements, known as 10b5-1 plans.

  • "Assuming new rules pass, it will significantly alter the landscape for corporate insiders to defend themselves against charges of insider trading," Joseph says.

Go deeper

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Capitol riot lawsuit

Rep. Mo Brooks during a June news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Team USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the final of the women's 1,500m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky took home the Olympic gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Of note: The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the long-distance race has been open to women, and Ledecky paid tribute to her predecessors after the race. "I just think of all the great U.S. swimmers who didn’t have a chance to swim that event," she said on NBC.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky celebrates with teammate Erica Sullivan after winning the women’s 1500m freestyle final. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

🚨: Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles pulls out of gymnastics team finals, citing her mental health

🎾: "This one sucks more than the others," Naomi Osaka says on upset loss

⚽️: USA women's soccer ties Australia, propelling them to the quarterfinals

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

👟: World Athletics president supports reviewing marijuana rules in doping

🏄‍♀️: American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker