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Financial fix or financial flop?

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Overhaul bill signals start of new rules for banks, regulators

By Jim Kuhnhenn

WASHINGTON — In the end, it’s only a beginning.

The far-reaching new banking and consumer protection bill awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature now shifts from the politicians to the technocrats.

The legislation gives regulators latitude and time to come up with new rules, requires scores of studies and, in some instances, depends on international agreements falling into place.

For Wall Street, the next phase represents continuing uncertainty. It also offers banks and other financial institutions yet another opportunity to influence and shape the rules that govern their businesses.

In hailing the bill’s passage in the Senate on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner acknowledged that implementing the new law will take time.

“But we are determined to move as quickly as we can to provide clarity and certainty,” he said.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, criticized the bill as not “real reform,” saying it doesn’t address the problems of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose questionable lending helped start a collapse in the housing market.


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