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WASHINGTON — Taking advantage of the current crises in the U.S. mortgage and credit markets, the U.S. Department of the Treasury last week unveiled the most sweeping package of changes to U.S. financial institution and market regulation in almost 80 years.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson introduced the proposal, which the Treasury broke up into short-, interim, and long-term goals, on March 31. The plan offered a few measures to try to address the immediate problems in the mortgage and credit markets and proposed long-term changes across the entire spectrum of financial institutions and markets (see related stories, pages 1 and 3). For example, the Treasury plan proposed eliminating the Office of Thrift Supervision, the federal regulator for federally chartered mutual savings banks; it proposed rolling the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission into one federal securities regulator; and it suggested reducing the current five federal financial regulatory agencies for thrifts into one and eliminating the distinctions between charters.

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