NEW YORK -- Lecturing Wall Street on its own turf, President Barack Obama warned financial leaders not to use the recovering economy to race back into "reckless behavior" that could cause a new meltdown. He declared that a bailout-weary public will not break their fall again.
Obama insisted Monday that there is an urgent need for tighter financial regulation, and he cautioned his audience not to try to block it. He spoke on the first anniversary of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and a stark reminder of the financial crisis that spread into a deep recession despite huge federal bailouts of major companies.
"It is neither right nor responsible after you've recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system, and a more broadly shared prosperity," Obama said in a stern bid to boost his regulation proposals.
The president's speech reflected public sentiment that taxpayers were immeasurably harmed from last year's financial collapse -- and that, barring change, it could happen again. As investment giants return to profit, millions of Americans are still coping with unemployment, home foreclosures and retirement portfolios that got washed away in the storm.
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For symbolic emphasis, Obama spoke from venerable Federal Hall on Wall Street.
"Unfortunately, there are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment," Obama told a quiet audience of leaders from the investment sector.
"So I want them to hear my words," Obama said. "We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess that was at the heart of this crisis. ... Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences."
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who once considered being Obama's commerce secretary, was among GOP lawmakers who responded to the president's message with caution.
He said, "We must be wary of the reality that -- in an attempt to address yesterday's failures -- Congress will put in place regulatory schemes which will fundamentally undermine risk taking."