WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama Wednesday signed financial reform legislation, making the most sweeping changes to the U.S. financial system in 70 years.
Obama said the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will replace an "antiquated and poorly enforced" system that led to the worst recession since the Great Depression.
"The economy is growing again but too many people are still feeling the pain of the downturn," Obama said, citing the 8 million jobs lost since the recession began with the collapse of the housing industry at the end of 2007.
Obama said unless one's business plan depends on bilking customers or cutting corners, "you've got nothing to fear" from financial reform.
Too often, Obama said, consumers are caught by hidden fees and other complex rules buried in pages of legalese.
"This law will end that for good," Obama said, highlighting the new consumer protection provisions that are part of the bill. "With this law we will crack down on abusive practices in the mortgage industry … so people will know what they're signing. … These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history."
He added: "Now, that's not just good for consumers; that's good for the economy. Because reform will put a stop to a lot of the bad loans that fueled a debt-based bubble. And it will mean all companies will have to seek customers by offering better products, instead of more deceptive ones."
Obama said the measure puts an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts and reins in the "abuse and excesses" that brought down our financial system."
"The fact is every American from Main Street to Wall Street has a stake in our financial system. … That's why we all stand to win," he said, adding that only clear and sensible regulation can keep the system humming along.
"For these new rules to be effective, regulators will have to be vigilant. We also may need to make adjustments along the way as our financial system adapts to these changes. And no law can force anybody to be responsible; it is still incumbent on those on Wall Street to heed the lessons of this crisis in how they conduct business."
Obama thanked Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., for the work they put in on the measure and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada for their leadership in the face of a massive lobbying effort by the financial industry and what Democrats said was obstructionism by the Republican minority.
Pelosi called the bill a "step forward for the middle class."
"With this law in place, the homes, retirements, and college savings of Main Street consumers will come first. With these historic changes, we will help ensure that a future crisis does not compromise the financial security of hard-working Americans," Pelosi said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., hailed the measure.
"Two years ago, we faced a financial collapse that has cost our economy 8 million jobs and cost many families their homes and savings -- a collapse which Minority Leader John Boehner derisively compared to an ant," Hoyer said. "That collapse was in large part due to years of Republican rule when they took the referees off the field and allowed Wall Street free rein to play with our economy."
Boehner countered the Democratic rhetoric, saying the measure will makes Wall Street bailouts permanent and will hurt job creation.
"House Republicans offered a better solution -- one that would stop the Democrats' permanent bailouts, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, protect taxpayers, and help small businesses create jobs. Our better solution holds President Obama's Wall Street allies accountable, while his plan lets them off the hook," Boehner said.
The signing occurred at the Ronald Reagan Building.
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