Obama Urges Support for Financial Reform Legislation
[Update 1: Dodd bill moves to Senate floor today] President Barack Obama, speaking today at New York's Cooper Union college, said the US financial system failed in the years running up to the current economic recession. He urged a broad-based cooperation in bringing about financial regulatory reform legislation like the bills making their way through the US House of Representatives and Senate. "These reforms are in the end not only in the best interest for our country, but for the financial sector," Obama said. He urged the adoption by Congress of a single reform bill that not only protects the financial sector and consumers alike, but gives shareholders more power in the financial system and brings "complex financial dealings out of the shadows." In particular, Obama praised the bill passed by a Senate panel this week that aims to bring greater transparency to derivatives trading. In discussing the scope of reform, the President limited his remarks. He did, however, point out a man in the front row, American economist and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, whose proposed "Volcker rule" would put caps on the size of financial institutions and limit high-risk trading. Obama attributed the roots of the financial crisis to the firms that "made out like bandits" and created "financial weapons of mass destruction." He said financial regulatory reform will reign in the range of products these institutions are allowed to market and sell. "Instead of competing by offering confusing products, they will operate the old-fashioned way," by offering straightforward, affordable products, he said. Obama also dug at lobbyist groups that are "spending millions to influence the debate" on financial legislation, saying there is a need for reform in Washington. Obama's comments today come as no surprise, as his push for financial reform has been ongoing for months. In a weekly address Saturday, Obama said he would "hold Wall Street accountable." According to a transcript of his address, he said: "We will protect and empower consumers in our financial system. That’s what reform is all about. That’s what we’re fighting for. And that’s exactly what we’re going to achieve." Write to Diana Golobay. Disclosure: the author holds no relevant investments.