By Mark Memmott

Details had already been leaked, but now President Barack Obama's plans for overhauling regulation of financial institutions and for creation of a new consumer protection agency are online.

The White House has put its "white paper" about the plans here.

And, the administration has already released the statement that the president plans to deliver at 12:50 p.m. ET. A few highlights:

-- It is an indisputable fact that one of the most significant contributors to our economic downturn was an unraveling of major financial institutions and the lack of adequate regulatory structures to prevent abuse and excess. A culture of irresponsibility took root from Wall Street to Washington to Main Street. And a regulatory regime basically crafted in the wake of a 20th century economic crisis -- the Great Depression -- was overwhelmed by the speed, scope, and sophistication of a 21st century global economy.
-- Millions of Americans who have worked hard and behaved responsibly have seen their life dreams eroded by the irresponsibility of others and the failure of their government to provide adequate oversight. Our entire economy has been undermined by that failure.
The question is, what do we do now? We did not choose how this crisis began. But we do have a choice in the legacy this crisis leaves behind. So today, my administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression.
-- I am proposing that the Federal Reserve be granted new authority -- and accountability -- for regulating bank holding companies and other large firms that pose a risk to the entire economy in the event of failure. We will also raise the standards to which these kinds of firms are held. If you can pose a great risk, that means you have a great responsibility. We will require these firms to meet stronger capital and liquidity requirements so that they are more resilient and less likely to fail.
And even as we place the authority to regulate these large firms in the hands of the Federal Reserve -- so that lines of responsibility and accountability are clear -- we will also create an oversight council to bring together regulators from across markets to coordinate and share information; to identify gaps in regulation; and to tackle issues that don't fit neatly in an organizational chart. We're going to bring everyone together to take a broader view -- and a longer view -- to solve problems in oversight before they can become crises.
-- Second, we are proposing a new and powerful agency charged with just one job: looking out for ordinary consumers. This is essential, for this crisis was not just the result of decisions made by the mightiest of financial firms; it was also the result of decisions made by ordinary Americans to open credit cards, take out home loans, and take on other financial obligations. We know that there were many who took out loans they knew they could not afford, but there are also millions of Americans who signed contracts they did not always understand offered by lenders who did not always tell the truth. Even today, folks signing up for a mortgage, student loan, or credit card face a bewildering array of incomprehensible options. Companies compete not by offering better products, but more complicated ones, with more fine print and hidden terms.
This new agency will change that, building on credit card reforms I signed into law a few weeks ago. This agency will have the power to set standards so that companies compete by offering innovative products that consumers actually want -- and actually understand. Consumers will be provided information that is simple, transparent, and accurate. You'll be able to compare products and see what is best for you. The most unfair practices will be banned. Those ridiculous contracts -- pages of fine print that no one can figure out -- will be a thing of the past. And enforcement will be the rule, not the exception.
-- This is a difficult time for our nation. But from this period of challenge, we can once again tap those values and ideals that have allowed us to lead the global economy, and will allow us to lead once again. That is how we will help more Americans live their own dreams. That is why these reforms are so important. And I look to working with leaders in Congress and all of you to see these proposals put to work so that we can overcome this crisis and build a foundation for lasting prosperity.

Update at 12:54 p.m. ET: The president just began delivering his remarks. Meanwhile, our colleagues at Planet Money report that bankers seem to like the Obama plan.

categories: Business

11:19 - June 17, 2009