European Central Bank board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger unexpectedly resigned more than two years before her term ends, a shock move in the wake of unprecedented dissent over President Mario Draghi's latest stimulus drive.
While the ECB gave no reason for her departure, Ms. Lautenschlaeger had been one of the strongest opponents of the Governing Council's decision this month to resume bond purchases along with an interest rate cut to revive eurozone growth and inflation. She'll step down from the six-person board on Oct. 31, also Mr. Draghi's last day in office before he's replaced by Christine Lagarde.
Ms. Lautenschlaeger is the latest German policymaker in the ECB's two-decade history to quit early, echoing the frustrations of the savings-oriented nation with loose policies. Then-Chief Economist Juergen Stark resigned from the board in December 2011 over his opposition to stimulus measures, and the resignation of Axel Weber the same year from the Governing Council, giving up his post at the head of the Bundesbank, thrust Mr. Draghi into the ECB presidency. Until then Mr. Weber had been the front-runner to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet.
Joerg Asmussen served only two years on the ECB's board — until January 2014 — before leaving to join the German government. Mr. Weber's predecessor as Bundesbank chief — Ernst Welteke — also quit early.
Ms. Lautenschaleger's decision to leave comes as the ECB prepares for the arrival of Ms. Lagarde, who has signaled that she'll continue Mr. Draghi's stimulative policies. Another policymaker likely to take that view is Fabio Panetta, a Bank of Italy official who was named Wednesday as the sole candidate to fill another board post that becomes available on Jan. 1.
"Just wow!" said Piet Christiansen, senior economist at Danske Bank in Copenhagen. "Can't see that this is not connected to the September stimulus package."
Ms. Lautenschlaeger said last month that a new round of quantitative easing was unnecessary and should only be used as a last resort. While about a third of the 25-member Governing Council took a similar view, including governors from nations including France, the Netherlands and Austria, the ECB decided Sept. 12 to launch the program.
The 55-year-old has been a board member since January 2014 and during her tenure served a full five-year term as the vice chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism. She currently is the only woman on the Governing Council, which consists of the heads of the 19 eurozone central banks and the executive board.
In its statement, the ECB said Mr. Draghi "thanked her for her instrumental role in helping set up and steer Europewide banking supervision, a key pillar of banking union, as well as her unwavering commitment to Europe."