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Obama asks regulators to speed up Wall Street reforms

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington, August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the White House in Washington, August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called top U.S. financial regulators to the White House on Monday, instructing them to speed up Wall Street reforms in the face of intense bank lobbying.

Roughly five years after the depths of the financial crisis, regulators have completed about 40 percent of the rules called for in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Agencies have missed numerous deadlines as they struggle to coordinate with one other and also consider feedback from the financial industry, consumer groups, Congress and others.

In a readout of the afternoon meeting, the White House said Obama and the officials talked about ways the regulators could better coordinate, among other topics.

"The president commended the regulators for their work but stressed the need to expeditiously finish implementing the critical remaining portions of Wall Street reform to ensure we are able to prevent the type of financial harm that led to the Great Recession from ever happening again," the statement said.

A White House spokesman also reiterated before the meeting the importance of independent regulatory agencies resisting pressure from big banks to water down rules.

Officials from the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other agencies attended the meeting. They left the White House without briefing reporters about the discussion.

September will mark the fifth anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, an investment bank whose failure roiled markets and is often viewed as a low in the financial crisis.

The Dodd-Frank law, which Congress passed in response to the meltdown, called for hundreds of new rules, including new oversight of the massive swaps market, mortgages and consumer financial products, and large nonbank financial firms.

Regulators have particularly wrestled with drafting the Volcker rule, which forbids banks from making risky trades with their own money. That reform is more than a year behind schedule, as five different agencies try to agree on a single rule.

The Volcker rule and other Dodd-Frank reforms have been the subject of intense lobbying by Wall Street firms hoping to shape the rules in their favor. Republicans in Congress also claim Dodd-Frank piles too many new requirements on banks and could wind up restricting credit availability.

"Dodd-Frank is an incomprehensively complex piece of legislation that is harmful to our floundering economy and in dire need of repeal," Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Republican and the chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, said in a statement on Monday.

Beyond Dodd-Frank, the White House said the president and top regulators also discussed efforts to revamp housing finance in the United States and the challenges posed by smaller budgets.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Leslie Gevirtz and Lisa Shumaker)

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