President-elect Barack Obama named three veteran regulators today to round out his economic team and vowed to revamp regulatory rules to prevent a repeat of the financial and economic debacles the country is suffering through.
He sidestepped questions about whether he would support a decision by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to tap the second $350 billion installment of the $700 billion financial bailout program. Major auto companies are pleading for emergency aid, which could come from that pot.
"I think it's important for the Treasury, the Fed and all of us to do whatever is required to make sure our financial system is stable and secure," Obama said. But he added: "We cannot afford a collapse of our financial system. Main Street can't afford it."
Obama blamed regulators for the financial debacle, saying they "dropped the ball." Regulators, he said, "have been asleep at the switch."
American people, watching their investments tank, are frustrated that "there's not a lot of adult supervision out there," Obama added.
At a Chicago news conference, Obama named Mary Schapiro to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Daniel Tarullo to fill an empty Federal Reserve seat. All three will need to be confirmed by the Senate next year.
As he made the announcements, Obama pointed to Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff, under investigation in an alleged $50 billion fraud, and said the scandal underscored the need for tougher regulators. The scandal "has reminded us yet again of how badly reform is needed," he said.
The president-elect said his new team will help put in place new rules that will help "crack down on the culture of greed and scheming."