UPDATE 1-Sommers, a Republican, to leave U.S. CFTC
WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Jill Sommers, a Republican, said on Thursday she is stepping down as a commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, leaving the main U.S. derivatives regulator firmly in Democratic hands as it puts in place the last building blocks of a Wall Street overhaul.
"I did not always agree with the direction of the agency," Sommers said in a letter to CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler.
She said her resignation will be effective at the end of the first quarter. Sommers is of one five commissioners of the CFTC.
The CFTC's powers were vastly expanded when the 2010 Dodd-Frank law put it in charge of the $650 trillion swaps market, dominated by Wall Street's big investment banks, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America.
Sommers is in her second term in office on the CFTC. Her first term ran from 2007 to 2009. She began a five-year second term on Oct. 8, 2009.
Together with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the CFTC is drawing up dozens of rules to implement the Dodd-Frank law, facing intense lobbying from the industry, which has also sued the agency on a number of occasions.
Sommers often has published dissenting statements on the commission's decisions, most recently on a stop-gap measure to determine how its rules apply abroad, a thorny issue that has invoked the wrath of European and Asian regulators.
Her departure means that three out of four commissioners, including Gensler, will be Democrats. If her post is not filled quickly, the CFTC will still be able to make decisions, though the industry may regret Sommers's departure.
Representative Frank Lucas, a Republican who is the chairman of the House of Representatives committee that oversees the CFTC -- the Committee on Agriculture -- said Sommers had "advocated for a balanced approach to regulatory reform."