Prez targets finance system
Seeks to prevent Wall St. abuses
President Obama’s plan to overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory system received support yesterday from key Massachusetts congressional members who said changes are long overdue.
Saying America had allowed a “culture of irresponsibility” to grow within the financial industry, Obama proposed giving the Federal Reserve more regulatory powers and creating a new consumer watchdog agency to review new financial products peddled by firms.
“This was a failure of the entire system,” Obama said at a White House event, referring to last fall’s near collapse of the nation’s financial system. “An absence of oversight engendered systematic, and systemic, abuse.”
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton), chairman of the influential House Financial Services Committee, said the plan is an important step toward overhauling the regulatory system. He predicted Congress will have a bill on Obama’s desk before the end of the year.
Frank, who has parted with the administration over some issues, said there will be changes to Obama’s plan, but he said Democrats agree with the “fundamental” thrust of the package.
U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. William Delahunt (D-Quincy) won a major victory when Obama agreed to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, something the two Bay State pols have pushed for in recent months.
“The plan announced by the president today will protect consumers and investors by restoring much of the regulatory oversight of our financial system that has been systematically dismantled in recent years,” said Delahunt.
But business leaders and Republicans didn’t like most of the proposals.
David Hirschmann, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s capital markets center, said the president’s plan adds an extra layer of red tape without really fixing the problems that led to last year’s Wall Street meltdown.
“We can’t simply insert new regulatory agencies and hope that we’ve covered our bases,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said the president’s plan could create a cycle of more bank bailouts.
“It perpetuates what we’ve had in the past, said Garrett,” a member of Frank’s Financial Services committee.
The financial industry, including some of Boston’s most powerful mutual-fund companies, have been wary of too much government intervention in the sector, fearing their interests might be hurt.
US push to overhaul banking worries some