SEC Enforcement Chief Steps Down Days After Appointment

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In Brief
  • Alex Oh resigns only days after assuming the role.

  • Allegations against Oh stem from her previous role representing ExxonMobil.

  • Melissa Hodgman to return to the role as acting SEC Enforcement Chief.

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Alex Oh, head of enforcement at the United States Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has stepped down from her role just days after being appointed. This move came following criticism from a judge about her conduct while in a previous role as a corporate lawyer for ExxonMobil. 

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In an announcement made on April 28, Oh cited “personal reasons” as the cause for her abrupt resignation.

Before being appointed to the position, Oh had spent the last two decades working at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. During her time in this position, she represented Fortune 100 companies facing government investigations. Her clients included Bank Of America as well as ExxonMobil. 

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Accusations against Oh

Accusations leveled against Oh by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth are believed to be behind her sudden exit. Lamberth questioned why Oh should escape sanctions for allegations she made while representing ExxonMobil in her previous role as a corporate lawyer.

During a deposition, Oh accused an opposing lawyer of being “agitated, disrespectful, and unhinged.” This all unfolded on Monday, just four days into her term at the SEC.

The role of the Enforcement Chief is held in high regard by many inside and outside of the SEC. However, the departure of Oh has been greeted keenly by some advocacy groups. Many of which would rather see someone appointed to the role who has fewer ties to firms the SEC regulates.

Because she previously represented Bank of America, many outside of the SEC had voiced concern at her initial appointment. 

Next move for the SEC?

Head of the SEC Gary Gensler announced that Melissa Hodgman would return to the role of Acting Director of the Division of Enforcement for the time being. Gensler had the following to say;

“Melissa is an exceptional attorney who has proven to be an effective leader of the Enforcement Division. I’m grateful that she will take on this role again and look forward to working closely with her to fulfill the mission of the SEC.” 

While Hodgman returns to the role, many people and groups will be keenly waiting for a progressive appointment to the role after Oh’s failed tenure.

This comes at a busy time for Gensler, who announced today that the SEC would delay its decision on the VanEck Bitcoin ETF. Gensler was appointed as SEC Chairman by President Biden in January, and the decision was well-received by the crypto community.

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