By Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is considering nominating Treasury aide and former banker Raj Date as head of the new consumer financial watchdog agency, a source familiar with the decision-making said Wednesday.
Date is a close associate of Elizabeth Warren, the outspoken consumer advocate who championed the creation of the agency that will seek to prevent fraud and abuses in an array of financial products from credit cards to mortgage loans.
Warren has been working at Treasury to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and had long been considered the front-runner to become director of the agency.
But her candidacy is fiercely opposed by many in the financial industry and by many Republicans, who could seek to block her confirmation in the Senate.
The controversy surrounding Warren has fueled skepticism in recent weeks that Obama would be willing to take on a highly visible confirmation battle that he could end up losing.
A person familiar with the administration's thinking said that within the White House, interest has grown in the idea of picking someone close to Warren as a way of sending a signal that she would continue to help shape the consumer agency.
Date spent more than a decade in the financial industry and has worked at Capital One Financial and Deutsche Bank.
He later left to found Cambridge Winter Associates, a research organization.
While at Cambridge Winter Associates, Date helped to push for the creation of the consumer bureau as part of the sweeping legislation overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system.
Newly empowered Republican lawmakers who won a majority in the House of Representatives and increased their numbers in the Senate in the November elections have made slowing down or preventing the financial reforms a key priority.
The consumer bureau will open its doors on July 21 and the new director, once confirmed, will serve a five-year term.
Warren had been asked by the White House for her input on potential candidates to serve as director of the consumer agency.
Liberal groups had gathered 250,000 signatures on a petition to Capitol Hill lawmakers urging support for Warren's candidacy to head the consumer bureau.
Warren, a Harvard professor who headed a panel that investigated the bank bailouts during the financial crisis, is being urged by some Democrats to challenge Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, whose seat is up for re-election in 2012.
(Additional reporting by Dave Clarke; Editing by Jackie Frank and Vicki Allen)