Fed, SEC complete information-sharing pact

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WASHINGTON Financial regulators on Monday announced an information-sharing agreement aimed at better detecting potential risks to the U.S. financial system.

The pact between the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission should enhance regulatory cooperation between the two agencies, allowing them to better carry out their regulatory duties.

Under the agreement, the two agencies will share information and cooperate across a number of important areas of common interest, including anti-money laundering efforts, bank brokerage activities as well as on clearing and settling financial transactions conducted by both banks and investment firms.

The Fed is the main regulator of banks, while the SEC oversees Wall Street investment firms.

The two agencies have been working together more closely%uFFFDespecially since mid-March with the near collapse of investment firm Bear Stearns. JPMorgan took over Bear Stearns after a run plunged the troubled firm to the brink of bankruptcy.

The situation, which came about quickly and raised questions about the financial health of both banks and other Wall Street firms, underscored the need for the Fed and the SEC to better combine their resources and share information in an effort to bolster their ability to detect problems.

“I am pleased with this agreement. It formalized and strengthens the ongoing cooperation between our two agencies to enhance the stability of the financial system,” Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a statement.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox also welcomed the pact, saying it should “help ensure that regulated entities receive a coherent message from Uncle Sam.”

The agreement comes as regulators are confronted with an increasingly intricate web of complex, often-changing financial products and a wide array of financial players using them in the United States and beyond.

A separate–and much broader debate–that was spurred by the Bear Stearns debacle and the ensuing financial turmoil left in its wake is what is the best regulatory structure to keep up with a dynamic financial system and modern-day crises. The Bush administration has proposed revamping the U.S. financial system which dates back to the Civil War. That debate is likely to spill over to the next president and the next Congress. (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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