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Obama Wall Street speech: execs wary of his reforms

He called on the financial industry to join in an effort to update regulations for the 21st century.

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President Barack Obama speaks about the global financial crisis at Federal Hall in New York on Monday.

Henny Ray Abrams/ AP

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President Obama came to Wall Street to chastise executives and to urge Congress to pass tougher regulation of the bankers and brokers whom he blamed for the crisis in the financial markets a year ago.

Speaking at Federal Hall, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Mr. Obama said the United States needed “strong rules of the road to guard against the kind of systemic risks we have seen.” He called on 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.”

The response from Wall Street: muted.

Only once during Obama’s speech did financial executives give the president applause. Instead, they listened politely to the speech, applauded once more at the end, and then left.

“It was more of a lecture. There weren’t too many points to applaud,” says Jeffrey Kleintop of LPL Financial in Boston. “It was kind of painful.”

However, Mr. Kleintop viewed the speech more as an opportunity for Obama to keep the issue of financial reform alive while the main focus is on healthcare legislation. “Congress is not going to tackle financial reform this year. There is too much on the plate,” he says.

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