NEW YORK - Amid strong signs the deep recession has ended, President Barack Obama traveled to Wall Street on a key anniversary in the long financial crisis to deliver a blunt message - all is not forgotten.
Concerned that the improving economy could derail passage of a major regulatory overhaul this year, Obama warned the financial industry Monday that although, "The storms of the past two years are beginning to break ... normalcy cannot lead to complacency."
Complicated securities and reckless investments helped send the economy spiraling downward and spurred a government response that pumped $700 billion in federal funds into rescuing the financial system.
"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," the president said.
Obama went to historic Federal Hall, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, on the one-year anniversary of the collapse of investment banking giant Lehman Bros. The subsequent market panic a year ago helped turn the recession that began in late 2007 into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The president's 30-minute speech was as much a lecture to Wall Street not to repeat its mistakes as it was a pitch for passage of his regulatory overhaul proposals, which are designed to prevent further lapses by giving the government more power to protect consumers and manage risks in the financial system.
Congressional leaders have pledged to pass the legislation this year, but they are running into resistance from some lawmakers and a less-chastened financial services industry.
"I think this is a shot across the bow to show the financial services industry he's serious about reform and he's not going to back down," Travis Plunkett, legislative director for Consumers Union, said about Obama. Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, strongly backs most of the overhaul.