This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

"Normalcy Cannot Lead to Complacency"

It was one year ago today that predictions of a possible depression began to be taken seriously. Lehman Brothers, one of the world's oldest financial institutions, one which most would have assumed would be around virtually forever, had fallen. In the time since then, a great deal has happened – a new President was elected and sworn in; the Recovery Act was passed to spur job creation in sectors that would rebuild our nation for a new century; and the Treasury Secretary took aggressive action to stabilize the financial markets that were dragging down everything from 401(k)'s to spots on the factory floor. And of course there have been endless news cycles and political scuffles along the way.
But as economic indicators continue to trickle out showing that we are returning from the brink, and that the tragic impact on jobs that this downturn has had will not last forever, the President spoke at Federal Hall in New York City to both look back and look forward:
While full recovery of the financial system will take a great deal more time and work, the growing stability resulting from these interventions means we're beginning to return to normalcy.  But here's what I want to emphasize today:  Normalcy cannot lead to complacency.
Unfortunately, there are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment.  Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we're still recovering, they're choosing to ignore those lessons.  I'm convinced they do so not just at their own peril, but at our nation's.  So I want everybody here to hear my words:  We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses.  Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.
And that's why we need strong rules of the road to guard against the kind of systemic risks that we've seen.  And we have a responsibility to write and enforce these rules to protect consumers of financial products, to protect taxpayers, and to protect our economy as a whole.  Yes, there must -- these rules must be developed in a way that doesn't stifle innovation and enterprise.  And I want to say very clearly here today, we want to work with the financial industry to achieve that end.  But the old ways that led to this crisis cannot stand.  And to the extent that some have so readily returned to them underscores the need for change and change now.  History cannot be allowed to repeat itself.
So what we're calling for is for the financial industry to join us in a constructive effort to update the rules and regulatory structure to meet the challenges of this new century.  That is what my administration seeks to do.  We've sought ideas and input from industry leaders and policy experts, academics, consumer advocates, and the broader public.  And we've worked closely with leaders in the Senate and the House, including not only Barney, but also Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby, and Barney is already working with his counterpart, Sheldon [sic] Bachus.  And we intend to pass regulatory reform through Congress.
And taken together, we're proposing the most ambitious overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression.  But I want to emphasize that these reforms are rooted in a simple principle:  We ought to set clear rules of the road that promote transparency and accountability.  That's how we'll make certain that markets foster responsibility, not recklessness.  That's how we'll make certain that markets reward those who compete honestly and vigorously within the system, instead of those who are trying to game the system.
The President went on to lay out the specifics of the new regulations and oversight that the largely Wall Street audience would come under. Read the full transcript for the details.
President Barack Obama speaks about the financial crisis on the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse Monday, Sept. 14, 2009, at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza