September 11, 2009 / 4:23 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Obama to urge financial regulatory reform

(Adds Romer, details throughout)

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s speech in New York on Monday will focus on financial reforms and the need to strengthen the system to avoid another economic collapse, the White House said on Friday.

In his speech, a year after the fall of Lehman Brothers, Obama will note that the economy has improved but emphasize that there is still more to do to safeguard it for the future, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

“The speech on Monday will focus on the need to take the next series of steps on financial regulatory reform to ensure what happened a year ago ... doesn’t happen again and cause the type of havoc that we’ve seen in our economy,” Gibbs told reporters.

The collapse of Lehman last year triggered a worldwide financial crisis and accelerated Obama’s race for the presidency. The Democrat, who made financial regulatory reform a key platform of his candidacy, was seen as having a cool and pragmatic reaction to the country’s economic woes.

Lehman, once the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 15, 2008, in the largest U.S. bankruptcy filing in history.

Obama will mark the anniversary with the speech at Federal Hall in New York City, highlighting the administration’s efforts to get a financial reform package passed by Congress.

One of Obama’s top economic advisers said the administration considers passage of regulatory reform this year a “top priority.”

“The most important thing we can do to make sure that we never find ourselves in this situation again is to put in place the comprehensive set of reforms that were announced last spring and that we are now working (on) with Congress,” Christina Romer, who chairs the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Reuters Television.

The ambitious plan to overhaul U.S. financial regulation is currently bogged down in Congress. Proposed changes call for tighter regulation of banks and capital markets to better protect consumers.

“We’ve outlined our financial plan and are working with Congress to implement it,” said Gibbs. “We want to demonstrate again why it’s so important, why we need to move forward.”

Romer said Obama wanted to use the speech to take stock of all that has happened in the past year.

“Now that we are starting to see improvements, now that we are starting to see a renewed sense of confidence, we don’t want to lose sight of what we’ve been through,” she said. (Editing by Todd Eastham; additional reporting by Jeff Mason)

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