Barack Obama with Richard Cordray (L) and Mary Jo White (R)
President Barack Obama promised Saturday to watch the US financial industry to prevent what he called "irresponsible behaviour" as he defended his nominations to key financial watchdog agencies
The comments came after Obama nominated Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray to continue as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The CFPB, set up under Obama's 2010 financial regulatory law, has the power to protect consumers from predatory banking practices and hidden conditions on loans. It can also crack down on debt and credit agencies.
"Here in America, we know the free market is the greatest force for economic progress the world has ever known," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "But we also know the free market works best for everyone when we have smart, commonsense rules in place to prevent irresponsible behaviour."
He expressed the confidence that White and Cordray will be up to that task.
White has spent her career prosecuting high-profile fraud cases in New York and brought down mafia kingpin John Gotti, who headed the Gambino crime syndicate.
Cordray fought financial crime, serving as attorney general of the Midwestern state of Ohio.
"It's not enough to change the law -- we also need cops on the beat to enforce the law," Obama said, showcasing both nominations and urging the Senate to give both candidates a speedy approval.
The president also noted that he was determined to create more jobs, improve education and job training, reform the immigration system and fight gun violence in his second term.
"As president, my top priority is simple: to do everything in my power to fight for middle-class families and give every American the tools they need to reach the middle class," Obama said.