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Obama presses for financial reforms
US president urges Wall Street leaders to join him in increasing industry regulation.
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2010 03:18 GMT
Obama criticised Wall Street's efforts to block legislation in Congress for tighter regulation [AFP]

Barack Obama, the US president, has called on Wall Street business leaders to get behind his plans to reform the US financial industry.

Outlining his plans in a speech in New York on Thursday, Obama said the proposed reforms would help protect both consumers and investors, and would restore trust to the system.

He also chastised the banking industry for "furious efforts" to prevent stricter regulation.

"It is essential that we learn the lessons of this crisis, so we don't doom ourselves to repeat it," he told the audience at Cooper Union college in Manhattan, which included financial industry leaders.

In depth

Wall Street

  Full text: Obama's financial reform speech

"And make no mistake, that is exactly what will happen if we allow this moment to pass - an outcome that is unacceptable to me and to the American people."

The Democratic party, of which Obama is a member, is currently pressing forward on a financial regulatory reform bill in the Senate, the upper house of the US congress, with debate due next week.

Congress's lower house, the House of Representatives, has already approved a version of the financial overhaul bill.

Public anger

Cath Turner, Al Jazeera's New York correspondent, said Obama's reforms are going to be a hard sell, pitting public anger against highly-paid pro-business lobbyists.

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Max Fraad Wolff tells Al Jazeera that Obama is trying to put pressure on Wall Street

"The public in America is angry and they want Wall Street to pay. Let's remember though, that 2010 is an election year, many senators are up for re-election and they'll be very aware that their constituents ... want to see blood from Wall Street."

Wall Street has been against Obama's proposed changes, with businessmen arguing that it could impede them being able to do their jobs.

"They say that the markets need to be free, and processes need to continue without too much regulation or oversight, otherwise, businesses and companies will simply take their businesses elsewhere," our correspondent reported.

Obama countered those claims on Thursday, saying that "a free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it".

He said the bill before Congress would improve the current regulatory structure "despite the furious efforts of industry lobbyists" to try to weaken the proposals.

Addressing one key aspect of US public outrage, Obama added that the new legislation would "put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts".

'Job killing'

Republican party leaders have voiced opposition to Obama financial reform plan.

John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, published an opinion piece in trade publication Investors Business Dailycalling the legislation a "job-killing initiative".

He said that, contrary to Obama's claims, the bill would "provide the nation's largest financial firms with permanent bailouts".

The bill is meant to bring greater oversight to hedge funds, crack down on risky trading and create safeguards for consumers of financial products.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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