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Lew: Dodd-Frank helped save the banking system

David Grogan | CNBC

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew praised the Dodd-Frank banking reform, saying it resolved the too-big-to-fail problem and ensured the future stability of the American financial system.

He spoke at the Delivering Alpha conference, presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, first delivering prepared remarks then sitting for a one-on-one interview with CNBC afterwards.

While Lew's term has been quiet to date, he spoke enthusiastically about the Dodd-Frank bank reform bill that has stirred critics who claim it went too far.

(Read More: Enjoy it while it lasts: Bank earnings face trouble)

"Now if a financial firm fails, taxpayers will not have to bear the cost of the failure," he said. "Dodd-Frank did not stifle economic growth, it did not halt lending activity. It actually achieved just the opposite."

He spoke pointedly, telling the conference attendees that "some in this room" were part of the crowd that tried to thwart the new law.

Moreover, he pledged more activity on the regulatory front before the end of the year, specifically citing the Volcker law, named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

The rule prohibits proprietary trading, which involves trading for the firm's profits rather than the client's.

"When we finish this work, our regulatory system will strike a balance between incentives for innovation and prevention of excessive risk-taking," Lew said.

Lew took over as Treasury secretary in late February, replacing the high-profile Timothy Geithner.

Though his tenure has been quiet so far, things are heating up in Washington.

Congress is getting set to take on the debt ceiling expiration as the economy still sputters towards recovery.

(Read More: Debt limit brawl may end Jack Lew's 'quiet period' )

He called the initial debt limit debate in 2011 "one of the most damaging, self-inflicted wounds that I've ever seen Washington inflict on itself and the country."

Thus far his term has been far less controversial than Geithner's, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to take over the position as the nation still reeled from the financial crisis.

Geithner spoke at the Delivering Alpha conference the previous two years.

"This discussion fits right in with the name of this conference—Delivering Alpha," Lew said. "I'm here to say we must always be striving for a higher level of performance when it comes to renewing our financial system. That we means we must stay on the job even after all the pieces of financial reform are in place."

In the meantime, the administration has to contend with an economy that is struggling to gain traction. Second-quarter projections for gross domestic product gains are tracking near 1 percent, while the jobs market is healing but only slowly.

(Read More: US housing startsdrop to lowest in nearly a year)

Lew pledged that the focus remains on growth.

"There's no substitute for economic growth," he said. "We are working every day to make sure we're doing what we can do generate economic growth...to create jobs."

—By CNBC.com Senior Writer Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxCNBCcom.

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