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SEC's New Enforcement Chief Resigns After Days in Role

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What You Need to Know

  • Oh resigned Wednesday for personal reasons, according to the agency.
  • Her conduct as a lawyer in an ExxonMobil civil case was called into question, Bloomberg reported.
  • Melissa Hodgman will return to the role of acting director.

Alex Oh, who was named director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division Thursday, resigned Wednesday for personal reasons.

Melissa Hodgman will return to the role of acting director of the Division of Enforcement, the agency said in a statement.

“Melissa is an exceptional attorney who has proven to be an effective leader of the Enforcement Division,” SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement. “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. I thank Alex for her willingness to serve the country at this important time.”

Oh, a seven-year partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, served as co-leader of the anti-corruption team.

Resignation Letter

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Oh resigned following a federal court ruling in a case involving one of her corporate clients, ExxonMobil.

In her Wednesday resignation letter, the Times reported, “Ms. Oh said the matter would be ‘an unwelcome distraction to the important work’ of the enforcement division.”

Oh’s resignation letter, according to the Times, “followed a ruling on Monday from Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia over the conduct of Exxon’s lawyers during a civil case involving claims of human rights abuses in the Aceh province of Indonesia.”

Bloomberg reported that Oh’s “conduct during the litigation was called into question this week by the U.S. District Court judge overseeing the case. On April 26, Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Oh to demonstrate why she shouldn’t be sanctioned for alleging that her opposing counsel was ‘agitated, disrespectful, and unhinged’ during a deposition without providing evidence.”

The National Law Journal reported that Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp said in an email Wednesday that “We cannot comment on this matter because it involves a ruling in an ongoing litigation. Alex is a person of the utmost integrity and a consummate professional, with a strong ethical code.”

The resignation of Oh, “who spent more than 20 years as a Wall Street defense lawyer and only a little more than three years as a prosecutor in the last millennium, should be viewed as an opportunity for the agency to select someone more appropriately qualified for the job, one with deep and broad experience in protecting the public interest without fear or favor,” Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets, said Wednesday in a statement.

Hodgman’s Background

Hodgman served as the Enforcement Division’s Acting Director from January 2021, through April 2021. Before that, she was the associate director in the SEC’s Home Office since October 2016. Hodgman began working in the Enforcement Division in 2008 as a staff attorney, and joined the Market Abuse Unit in 2010 and was promoted to Assistant Director in 2012.

Hodgman earned her Master of Laws with distinction in securities and financial regulation in 2007 from Georgetown University Law Center, her law degree with high honors from Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, and her Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1990.

Before joining the SEC staff, she worked as an associate at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in Washington.