WASHINGTON — The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, a product of 20-plus years of legislative warfare, was supposed to be on a par with the big ones — the National Bank Act of 1864, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, or the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

But as its first anniversary approaches, conventional wisdom considers the financial reform law a disappointment. “It’s been far less of an epiphany than anticipated,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, president of ISD/Shaw Inc. here and a shrewd observer of financial services public policy.

Yet the law’s fans insist it has already had a huge impact and predict it will still live up to its hype by transforming the financial services industry. “This law preserved the independence of the U.S. financial system,” House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach said. “Without it, every major bank would have been acquired by a commercial company.”

To mark Gramm-Leach-Bliley’s first anniversary on Nov. 12, American Banker is beginning a three-part series.

Today’s story focuses on what has happened so far. Wednesday’s explores the open questions about the law’s main focus: establishing financial holding companies that, for the first time, let banking, insurance, and securities be brought under one corporate roof. Finally, on Thursday, we will take a look at the long-term impact the law is expected to have on the financial services industry — and make some predictions.

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