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Obama Tries To Reinvigorate Wall Street Reform

U.S. President Barack Obama discusses the financial crisis on Wall Street.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama, marking a year since banking giant Lehman Brothers collapsed, has urged financial firms not to fight regulatory reform and called on Congress to pass his proposals by the end of the year.

Obama said while the economy and the financial system were showing signs of recovery, he wanted to emphasize that "normalcy cannot lead to complacency."

"Unfortunately, there are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment. Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we are still recovering, they are choosing to ignore them," Obama said at the historic Federal Hall in the heart of Wall Street.

"So I want them to hear my words: We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of this crisis," Obama said.

Obama's speech also sought to show other countries his administration is serious about tackling weaknesses and excesses in the U.S. financial system blamed for setting off the global crisis after Lehman, a venerable investment bank, filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008.

Financial reform will be a key issue at a G20 summit of leading developed and developing nations in Pittsburgh next week but progress on Obama's agenda has been slow.

Obama and other backers of a financial reform say new rules are crucial to heading off another catastrophe. But many of the provisions are bogged down in Congress, possibly delaying reforms until 2010 or resulting in a watered-down package.

The Treasury Department said on September 14 the U.S. financial system remains fragile and that withdrawing stimulus measures must be done carefully to avoid disrupting a nascent recovery.

Obama said: "While there continues to be a need for government involvement to stabilize the financial system, that necessity is waning."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it was vital for Congress to approve a regulatory overhaul by the end of the year.