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Mavericks of financial regulation: Still a long way to go

October 6, 2010, 2:17 AM UTC
Fortune

The new sheriffs of Wall Street see progress from recent financial reforms, but there’s still much more work ahead.



Mika Brzezinski, left, moderates a panel with Sheila Bair, Mary Schapiro, Christine Varney, and Elizabeth Warren

by Nin-Hai Tseng, reporter

However deep the scars of the U.S. banking crisis, one of the positive aspects that has transpired is the rise in corporate leadership, said FDIC chairman Sheila Bair Tuesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington DC.

Bair was joined in a panel discussion by what some are calling the new sheriffs of Wall Street: SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, Assistant Attorney General of anti-trust Christine Varney, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Elizabeth Warren.

The four talked about the progress of financial reform and the significant amount of work that still needs to be done to see meaningful change on Wall Street.

“I think it has gotten better,” said Bair, when asked if corporate America has cleaned up its act. “We haven’t done nearly as much as we need to, however.”

Warren, who heads the new consumer watchdog agency, says the tools are in place to prevent institutions from becoming too big to fail and to protect consumers from unfair practices in financial services. “There’s opportunity for great failure here and an opportunity for great success,” she said.

Varney said there should be proper regulations in place even when the economy is soft. Much of the financial crisis showed just how big corporations had become and the consequences of that when an economic crisis hits. But just because the economy is still recovering doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to relax antitrust laws to clear the way for mergers, she said.

While the panel discussed financial regulations, they also weighed in on the plight of women in corporate America and the workplace. The panel said there are far too few women getting coveted positions as CEOs at major corporations or partners at major law firms.

“I worry about my young women students,” said Warren, adding that she thought there would have been more progress by now.