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WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray told staff in a statement on Wednesday that he will resign his post by the end of November.
Cordray was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama, and had a term that would not expire until July 2018.
While widely rumored to be considering a run for governor as a Democrat in his home state of Ohio, Cordray made no mention of his future plans in a note informing staff of his decision.
Cordray has served as the CFPB's first and only director since it opened its doors in 2011, and he alluded to the agency's uncertain future in a statement announcing his resignation.
"One thing I have tried to reinforce this year is that the Consumer Bureau is far more than its director," he said. "I am confident that you will continue to move forward, nurture this institution we have built together, and maintain its essential value to the American public.
"And I trust that new leadership will see that value also and work to preserve it perhaps in different ways than before, but desiring, as I have done, to serve in ways that benefit and strengthen our economy and our country."
In departing months before his term ends next summer, Cordray leaves the agency, a darling of liberal Democrats, open for Republicans to weaken it or pull back on enforcing consumer finance rules. Prominent Republican Party members, including President Donald Trump, say the agency overreaches its authority and should be more accountable to lawmakers and voters.
The financial industry had a hostile relationship with the CFPB, which became known for pursuing aggressive enforcement and regulatory policies, including significant curbs on the use of payday lending, prepaid debit cards, and other consumer financial protection Cordray and his team identified as harmful.
Trump is expected to quickly move an acting director into place who shares his desire to tighten the reins. He could possibly tap Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who would then delegate day-to-day operations to subordinates, according to lawyers who closely follow the CFPB.
Speculation that Cordray might run for governor in Ohio was stoked by a speech he gave in September before the state AFL-CIO labor federation, attended by several political figures. Before becoming head of the CFPB, he was Ohio's attorney general. (Reporting by Pete Schroeder; additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)