WASHINGTON — The Office of Financial Research said Friday it had delayed plans to issue a rule requiring financial firms to use a legal entity identifier when they report data to the OFR.

The LEI is a unique, universal number that would identify a legally distinct entity that engages in financial market activities.

During the crisis, a lack of a universal ID made it difficult for firms to assess market exposures to risky or failing institutions, and the LEI is supposed to promote financial stability and contribute to market efficiency.

The OFR had initially planned to issue the rule if the LEI was established by July 15. But it said international regulators still need to build consensus on several key issues before it issues the rule.

OFR expects initial implementation of the LEI in 2012, and intends to issue the proposed rule "consistent with that timeline." It also plans to continue to coordinate with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which are issuing rules for reporting swap transactions to trade repositories, and for all three agencies to require the same system for identifying parties in reporting.