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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2008

Proposed financial regulation plan expected to produce fierce debate

March 31, 2008

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— In proposing the broadest overhaul of financial oversight since the Great Depression, the Bush administration has kicked off a fierce debate. It pits those eager to revamp an antiquated system against an industry opposed to excessive regulation.

The administration is aware of the hardening lines. The 200-page plan set for release today comes with the financial system in the midst of the most severe credit crisis in two decades.

That crunch has meant billions of dollars of losses for big banks and investment houses. It has caused the near-collapse of the country's fifth largest investment bank, made it harder for consumers and businesses to get loans and pushed the country to the brink of a recession.

The market turmoil has presented an opening for critics to make the case for strong federal rules to crack down on abuses that they believe were at the heart of the current crisis.

But Treasury Secretary Paulson, who has led the effort to rewrite regulations, rejects that criticism.

"I do not believe it is fair or accurate to blame our regulatory structure for the current turmoil," according to a draft of a speech he planned to give today when he outlines the administration's proposals.

Treasury began work on the review in early 2007. It came in response to complaints from the financial services industry that U.S. businesses were losing their edge in global competition because of over-regulation by Washington.

The yearlong review produced a plan calling for the greatest changes in financial regulation since many of the current oversight institutions were created in the 1930s.

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