OLYMPIA, Wash. – Helen Howell, director of the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, has resigned from the position effective Feb. 25. Howell was appointed director of the state's DFI in 2002 by then Gov. Gary Locke. A staunch supporter of consumer advocacy, she had previously worked as Gov. Locke's deputy chief of staff, as well as served as counsel to Sen. Patty Murray and White House deputy staff secretary in President Clinton's administration. One of the most far reaching consumer protection enforcement cases handled by DFI during Howell's two-and-a-half year tenure with the agency was the Household Finance predatory lending case. The $484 million predatory lending settlement – the largest in U.S. history – generated over $21 million in restitution for Washington consumers. Under her direction, consumer education also became a priority. DFI's predatory lending campaign used statewide television, radio, billboard, and transit panel advertising to deliver the message about the dangers of predatory lending to Washington consumers. The campaign was financed with cost recovery dollars obtained from the Household Finance settlement. Howell also oversaw the conflict in 2004 between the board of Vancouver-based Columbia CU and some of its members when the credit union tried to convert to a mutual savings bank. Governor Christine Gregoire is conducting interviews to select the DFI director for her administration.

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