With the election of President Trump, the nation’s consumer watchdog agency faced a quandary: how to shield the Obama-era institution from a Republican administration determined to loosen the federal government’s grip on business.

In the weeks after the election, Richard Cordray, the Democrat who leads the agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, directed his staff to compile stories from ordinary Americans thanking it for resolving complaints.

The anecdotes, which he solicited in an email to share with the Trump transition team, could provide a counterpoint to critics who had cast the agency as a regulatory scourge on the economy. And implicit in his request to employees was the belief that some accolades would come from parts of the country that helped elect Mr. Trump — evidence that the popularity of consumer safeguards transcends party divisions.

For now, though, it is mostly a waiting game. Mr. Cordray’s term as director expires next July, when he could be replaced with a sympathetic Trump appointee. That moment could come earlier as there is speculation that Mr. Cordray might resign — perhaps soon — to enter the Democratic primary for governor in Ohio.

“The industry will be very happy to see him out of there,” said Alan S. Kaplinsky, a lawyer with Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia, who represents financial institutions in matters before the bureau. “The people running that agency are definitely Obama people.”

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