CFPB director evasive about possible resignation to run for Ohio governor

FILE PHOTO: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray speaks in Washington, October 17, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was coy, in a letter sent to the head of a congressional committee on Wednesday, about possible plans to resign and run for governor of Ohio.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray rebuffed efforts by one of his fiercest critics in Congress to declare whether he has future ambitions for public office. He also categorically rejected claims that the agency may be rushing out rules cracking down on payday lenders ahead of an imminent departure.

“You ask whether I intend to serve my full statutory term,” Cordray said in his letter to Representative Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. “At this time, I have no further insights to provide on that subject.”

Hensarling had pressed Cordray Tuesday on whether the bureau was rushing regulations, and demanded to know if Cordray planned to serve out his full term, which expires in July 2018 or when he would submit his resignation.

Cordray noted in his letter that Hensarling has previously pressed him on the same question. Hensarling, a Republican, has been a fierce critic of the agency created in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 financial crisis by former Democratic President Barack Obama. He has suggested that political ambition could be impacting Cordray’s work as a regulator.

“I am disappointed by Director Cordray’s steadfast refusal to be transparent with the public about his intentions. If he intends to serve his full term, there is no reason not to say so,” said Hensarling in a statement to Reuters. “The only reasonable conclusion is that he therefore harbors partisan political ambitions, which calls into question the propriety of all of his recent and future actions as CFPB Director.”

Cordray is one of the last high-ranking holdovers from the Obama administration. A former Ohio attorney general, he is widely rumored to be considering a run for Ohio governor in 2018. Cordray is set to speak at a Labor Day picnic on Monday hosted by the Cincinnati AFL-CIO.

The CFPB has repeatedly decline to comment on whether Cordray intends to resign and seek public office. It is expected to finalize rules soon that would place new restrictions on payday and other small-dollar lending.

If Cordray were to leave, it is unclear who would head the agency until a full-time director is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Tom Brown