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M. Danny Wall, the nation's top thrift regulator, resigned Monday after weeks of political pressure and congressional criticism over his handling of a failed California savings and loan institution.

Wall, director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, had been under fire in recent weeks for his handling of the failed Lincoln Savings and Loan Association of Irvine, Calif. Resolution of the Lincoln failure is expected to cost taxpayers more than $2.5 billion."I have decided to resign as director of the Office of Thrift Supervision before my term expires on June 30, 1991," Wall said in a letter to President Bush.

Wall made the announcement at a news conference. He said he had spoken with Treasury officials in recent weeks "and they have asked that I remain for a time in order to provide for an orderly transition. I have agreed to do so."

In addition to his handling of Lincoln, Wall has faced criticism for his initially low estimates to Congress of the cost of the thrift crisis, which is now expected to cost the public more than $160 billion.

"The magnitude of this incompetence is stupifying. The cost of the entire savings and loan bailout was purposely lowered by Wall. This is grossly misleading," said Jim Davidson, chairman of the National Taxpayers Union, last week in calling for Wall's resignation.

Rep. Henry Gonzalez, D-Texas, who chaired a six-day hearing into the events surrounding Lincoln's failure and the political influence of the thrift's chairman, Charles Keating, called for Wall to step aside in November.

Gonzalez asked Bush to order Wall's resignation. Bush said he would consider removing Wall if the regulator were found to have delayed the government's evenual seizure of Lincoln in April.

Federal thrift examiners had recommended Lincoln be placed into conservatorship two years ago, but Wall said there was not enough evidence at the time to pursue a federal takeover.

Last week, Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine called for Wall to step down. Mitchell told reporters he thought it was time for new leadership to guide the government's thrift agency.

On Monday, The Washington Post called for Wall to resign, saying, "As the chief regulator of the S&L industry, M. Danny Wall has a somewhat better record than his detractors acknowledge. But he is not the right man for the job. He ought to resign."

However, it said Wall "is untouched by any suggestion of financial impropriety or scandal."