Thursday: Obama to Call for Wall Street Reform; Most European Flights Resume

BY Hari Sreenivasan  April 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM EDT


President Barack Obama speaks at Cooper Union in 2008 as a Democratic candidate. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Updated 12:00pm ET
You can find the full text of President Obama’s speech on Wall Street reform here.

Posted 9:30am ET
President Barack Obama returns to Cooper Union college in Manhattan on Thursday, two years after he laid out his vision for Wall Street and the financial industry as a presidential candidate. In his speech this time, the president is expected to argue for stronger government oversight of the industry and urge Congress to pass a regulatory bill quickly.

The president will call on corporate leaders to stop resisting tighter regulation, consumer protections and limits on the size of banks and the risks they can take. He also will call for reforms on executive compensation and greater transparency for derivatives.

“I am here today because I want to urge you to join us, instead of fighting us in this effort. I am here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of our financial sector,” President Obama plans to say.

The tone of Thursday’s speech will be tough, according to a Wall Street Journal headline, “Obama to Castigate Wall Street,” and another from the New York Times saying, “Obama Issues Sharp Call for Reforms on Wall Street.”

The president’s speech comes a day after lawmakers moved closer to passing financial reform as a Senate panel approved new regulations for the complex derivatives market with the backing of GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. And the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to limit banks’ ability to trade derivatives and to make such transactions more open.

The administration said Thursday’s speech will lay out five elements that “must be included” in the final bill. According to the New York Times:

  • Instituting a system to ensure that “American taxpayers are protected in the event that a large firm begins to fail”;
  • Imposing the so-called Volcker Rule, named after Paul A. Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who proposed limits on the freewheeling trading and risks taken by banks;
  • Setting new transparency rules for derivatives “and other complicated financial instruments”;
  • Assuring “strong consumer financial protections”;
  • Instituting “pay reforms” to give investors and pension holders “a stronger role in determining who manages the companies in which they’ve placed their savings.”

The Obama administration lays out its objectives for “Wall Street reform” here.

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog looks at President Obama’s 2008 speech and where things stand today. You can read a transcript of that 2008 speech here.

Baseline Scenario’s Simon Johnson asks, “What Should The President Say On Thursday?” Answer: Break up the big banks.

The Washington Post reports that the Senate could begin formal discussion of the legislation early next week and that some Republicans hope to ultimately support the financial bill.

American Public Media’s Marketplace reports that “big banks are fighting like mad against financial reform, but many of the little ones think change is actually a good idea.”

Most Flights Resume in Europe

Shifting winds sent a new plume of volcanic ash over Scandinavia, forcing some airports to close again. Airspace restrictions applied to northern Scotland and parts of southern Norway, Sweden and Finland, said Eurocontrol, the European air traffic agency.

Nearly all of Europe’s 28,000 other scheduled flights, including more than 300 flights on trans-Atlantic routes, were going ahead.