Remember when America's economy was pushed to the brink of total collapse by a combination of irresponsible borrowing, bank malfeasance, and the proliferation of derivatives and other Byzantine financial "instruments" designed chiefly for the benefit of Wall Street gamblers?
Since then, there has been talk about maybe passing laws that prevent it all from happening again (or at least preventing the next crisis from being as bad). Well, at 5:39 a.m. today, Senate and House leaders finally agreed on what this financial reform legislation should look like.
If you have a bank account, credit card, or stake in the future of America, you may be interested.
The Wall Street Journal has a great issue-by-issue breakdown of the bill's provisions. It sets up a procedure for liquidating failing financial institutions without bailouts, establishes a new council to monitor systemic threats to economic stability, reins in some of the riskiest investing practices, and puts limits on how far banks can go to lure you into bad credit card deals or mortgages and otherwise take advantage of you.
It took a while, but the bill looks good. People who know more about the details than I agree. Edmund Andrews at Capital Gains and Games says "the reformers held up amazingly well in the face of massive lobbying from banks, non-banks, Wall Street, hedge funds and the rest of the financial services industry." Score one for the little guy.