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Alex Oh Named SEC Enforcement Chief

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What You Need to Know

  • She "has the expertise as a highly respected lawyer to ensure that the SEC protects investors," SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said.
  • In the late 1990s, the Yale Law graduate was a former prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office, where she was part of a securities and commodities fraud task force.
  • At the legal firm Paul Weiss, Oh had been the co-leader of the anti-corruption and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act group.

A 17-year partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison who has served as co-leader of the anti-corruption team will be the next enforcement chief at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency said Thursday.

Alex K. Oh, a Washington-based partner at Paul Weiss, was a former federal prosecutor in New York and will become the latest Big Law attorney to hold the SEC enforcement post in recent years. Oh will serve under the leadership of newly appointed SEC chairman Gary Gensler.

Past SEC enforcement leaders have included Stephanie Avakian, who recently returned to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Steve Peikin of Sullivan & Cromwell; Andrew Ceresney of Debevoise & Plimpton; and Robert Khuzami, a former Kirkland & Ellis partner who is now chief legal officer at the investment firm Guggenheim Partners.

“I’m excited to join the Division of Enforcement’s team of deeply talented and committed public servants,” Oh said in a statement. “The Enforcement Division plays a critical role in protecting investors and maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets, essential components of the SEC’s mission.

“I am committed to working tirelessly to uncover and prosecute violations of the law, whether by businesses or their leaders, so that we can keep American capital markets the strongest in the world,” she said.

Oh’s Background

In the late 1990s, Oh, a graduate of Yale Law School, was a former prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, where she was part of a securities and commodities fraud task force. She was an associate at Paul Weiss from 2000 to 2003.

At Paul Weiss, Oh had been the co-leader of the anti-corruption and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act group with Mark Mendelsohn, who joined the firm in 2010 from his post at the U.S. Justice Department overseeing foreign-bribery investigations. Oh and Mendelsohn have written together on instances where federal enforcers declined to prosecute a claim under the FCPA.

Oh would face recusal issues for certain Paul Weiss client matters that might come on her radar as enforcement director at the SEC. Many SEC leaders have faced recusals, given how many Big Law partners have held key posts, including commission seats, which require Senate confirmation.

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In a statement, Gensler said “Alex brings to the role of director the right combination of values and experience to vigorously root out wrongdoing in our markets. With her work as a prosecutor, pro bono experience, and time in private practice, she has the expertise as a highly respected lawyer to ensure that the SEC protects investors.”

Oh would leave behind a multimillion-dollar partnership. Profits per partner soared at Paul Weiss last year, reaching $5.4 million, a 14% boost from the 2019, according to ALM reporting. Revenue per lawyer at the firm was up about 12% to $1.5 million.

Firm chairman Brad Karp was an outspoken social justice leader, contesting various Trump-era policies, and Paul Weiss has been involved in myriad public interest matters.

Joseph Simons, the former Paul Weiss partner and Trump-era chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, reported earning $2.5 million in partner share before joining the agency in 2017.

Andrew Finch reported $3.7 million in partner share in the lead-up to joining the Justice Department in April 2017. He returned to Paul Weiss in 2019 and is co-chair of the antitrust practice with Washington partner Charles Rule.

Oh’s departure was the second notable in recent weeks. Mark Pomerantz is on leave from Paul Weiss in New York, where he was a counsel, after having taken a post to help the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigate President Donald Trump and individuals and entities in his orbit.

Paul Weiss took down Oh’s bio page after the SEC’s announcement Thursday.