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TheStreet Open House

The Deal: White House Defends Financial Crisis Response

Stocks in this article: AIG

"This was feared by many to be too weak, potentially not differentiate enough," he said. "What was very striking was that this idea, this signature proposal by President Obama and then Secretary Timothy Geithner to ensure that these large banks had enough capital to continue to do lending, even in a more adverse scenario, led to major banks raising $80 billion in capital without one penny of federal dollars going into the major banks."

Sperling, who is leaving the administration at the end of the year, also noted that banks are significantly better capitalized, as capital levels more than doubled over the past five years. He also supported a global agreement on bank capital known as Basel III that requires the largest U.S. and international banks to hold even more capital buffers as protection against a crisis.

Finally, he pointed to a recent leverage-limiting proposal introduced in July by the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. that potentially could make U.S. banks cut back on their debt levels to an even greater extent than the amounts called for in the international agreement.

However, even though many critics of current bank capital levels support this proposal, including former FDIC chairman Sheila Bair, they also want it to restrict bank leverage even more. Also, concern has been expressed by fiscal policy makers about whether regulators will have the willpower to adopt it and if they do, will the final rule be one that keeps the banks from taking untoward risks.

The report also points to many other areas where the government stepped in to help stem panic and to limit future crises, including its effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which writes rules for mortgages and other credit products. It was created after big bank regulators mostly fell asleep at the switch when it came to mortgage origination restrictions; nonetheless, Capitol Hill Republicans fought against its establishment, as another example of big government, but also because it was to be run by one director, rather than a bipartisan panel.

Finally, the administration argued that key reforms have been implemented to "help ensure" that no financial institution is "too big to fail" and will be bailed out in another financial crisis. The report points out that big banks must write so-called "living wills" to ensure that in the event that they fail they can be dismantled in a way that does not cause damage to the global markets.

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