Obama Getting Serious About Financial Re-Regulation

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We’ve heard talk from various quarters in recent weeks about the pressing need to re-regulate the financial markets, in response to the SEC’s failure in the Bernard Madoff case, and to the broader financial crisis.

And in his interview yesterday with CNBC, Barack Obama added a bit more detail to the picture of what we can expect, and when.

Perhaps most importantly, he suggested that the overlapping “alphabet soup” of financial regulatory agencies — the SEC, the FDIC, the OTS, and so on — might be combined into one super-regulator. He signaled he’d be more interested than his predecessor in working with overseas allies on a global financial regulatory system. And he said he’ll have a proposal by early spring.

Here’s his answer in full:

CNBC: How extensive an overhaul of the financial regulatory apparatus will you propose and support? When will you do that? And do you think there is a global regulatory apparatus that needs to be created? You’ve got the G-20 coming up in April in London.

Obama: Well, by the time that G-20 meeting takes place, we, I believe, will have presented our approach to financial regulation. I think some international coordination has to be done. But right now, we just have to take care … (unintelligible) … and Wall Street has not worked, our regulatory system has not worked the way it’s supposed to. So it’s going to be a substantial overhaul. We’re going to have better enforcement, better oversight, better disclosure, increased transparency. We’re going to have to look at this alphabet soup of agencies and figure out how do we get them to work together more effectively. We’ve got to stop splintering functions in such a way that capital in one form is treated one way and capital in another form is treated another way, because these days in global financial markets, they’re all fungible. And there’s systemic risks that are possible, whether it’s in the form of derivatives or insurance or traditional bank deposits. So we’ve got to update the whole system to meet the needs of the 21st century. This is an assignment that my team is already beginning to work on and I think that we will have, fairly shortly, a package that we’ve worked alongside Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, to present to the American people.

In a sign pointing in a similar direction, Obama yesterday announced that he intended to keep Sheila Bair on as chair of the FDIC (pending any massive reorganization of the regulatory system that would abolish the agency, presumably). Though she’s a Republican, Bair, who has pushed for stronger efforts to prevent foreclosures, was described by the New Republic as “the high-ranking government official most likely to attack Obama’s economic policies from the left.”

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