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Congress OKs stiff Wall Street restrictions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress on Thursday passed the stiffest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression, clamping down on lending practices and expanding consumer protections to prevent a repeat of the 2008 meltdown that knocked the economy to its knees.

A year in the making and 22 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a worldwide panic in credit and other markets, the bill cleared its final hurdle with a 60-39 Senate vote. It now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature, expected as early as Wednesday.

The law will give the government new powers to break up companies that threaten the economy, create a new agency to guard consumers in their financial transactions and shine a light into shadow financial markets that escaped the oversight of regulators.

Large, failing financial institutions would be liquidated and the costs assessed on their surviving peers. The Federal Reserve is getting new powers while falling under greater congressional scrutiny.

From storefront payday lenders to the biggest banking and investment houses on Wall Street, few players in the financial world are immune to the bill’s reach. Consumer and investor transactions, whether simple debit card swipes or the most complex securities trades, face new safeguards or restrictions.

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