One thing the federal government is not likely to change in its reaction to the current financial crisis from its response to the Great Depression is its instinct to clamp down on Wall Street through a wave of new regulation.

The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and tightened the reins on the banking industry, was perhaps the most profound change for banks in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Depression. A key element of the law separated depository institutions from other financial firms, dismantling banking behemoths like J.P. Morgan.

In the free market, deregulation mindset of the 1990s, however, many restrictions on banks, including Glass-Steagall, were stripped away. That move's impact on the current crisis has been fiercely debated, but both sides can agree that, one way or another, Wall Street can expect some kind of renewed effort to rein in financial companies.

"One of the things that will undoubtedly happen is the pendulum will swing the other way -- toward more and more regulation," says Christie Sciacca, a director at banking consultancy LECG, and former associate director of policy at the FDIC. "It's already started to happen. Congress and others are talking about how deregulation was the cause of this, and it's interesting that Congress passed the legislation that led to deregulation."

A strong regulatory hand grasped the financial sector for several decades following the Depression, making banks more stable -- if more boring -- institutions. But as time went on, aversion to risk diminished, the lines of distinction blurred and competition from universal banks in Europe threatened to turn leading American institutions into runners-up.

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