SEC Enforcement Director Resigns Less Than Two Weeks After Being Appointed

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Apr 29, 2021 - 09:19 AM

So far, new SEC Chair Gary Gensler's tenure isn't starting exactly as planned.

Gensler's appointee for Enforcement Director, Alex Oh, who was announced in the role less than two weeks ago, has already resigned.

The stunning turnaround came "after a federal judge reprimanded her and others defending oil giant ExxonMobil in a class action lawsuit brought by Indonesian villagers," according to Politico

Oh wrote in her resignation letter: "In light of the time and attention it will take from me, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot address this development without it becoming an unwelcome distraction to the important work of the division."

Gensler, meanwhile, had already been under fire from progressives for hiring a "long-time corporate lawyer for one of the government's most powerful posts for overseeing the finance industry". Oh had previously worked at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, representing Fortune 100 companies who were facing government investigations. She helped defend ExxonMobil "in a lawsuit seeking to hold the company liable for murder and torture by the Indonesian military during civil unrest between 1999 and 2001."

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday admonished Oh for defending Exxon. 

Demand Progress, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Revolving Door Project had called Oh's morals into question on Tuesday of this week, asking if she would "change her entire legal philosophy toward fully enforcing the very laws and regulations whose enforcement she has built a career of defending against."

They wrote: "We therefore ask you to immediately reconsider your decision to name Alex Oh for this position, and instead to select an attorney with a proven track record of public-oriented service, of which there is no shortage."

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said: "Gary Gensler and the SEC dodged a bullet in avoiding having a seemingly overzealous defender of ExxonMobil's interests over Indonesian villagers entrusted with the powerful SEC Enforcement Division."

The friendly fire stood at odds with the praise Gensler received after being appointed. Gensler announced that SEC lawyer Melissa Hodgman would resume the role of acting director of enforcement in the meantime. 

In early March, we highlighted how Gensler would focus on ridding trading apps and the crypto market of fraud and manipulation. 

Gensler is reported to be worth up to $119 million, as we noted in February 2021. He was previously the chairman of the CFTC and a partner at Goldman Sachs. He disclosed his net worth as part of disclosures he had to file with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this year. A majority of his money was made at Goldman, where he joined in the late 1970's after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. He became one of the youngest partners in Goldman Sachs history. 

Recall, we also wrote about Gensler's nomination at the beginning of the year. His arrival is slated to be a stark difference from the last 4 years of Jay Clayton, as Gensler's resume includes going to war with major financial titans when he was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission - and winning. Financial lobbyists sometimes simply called him "the enemy" during the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act battle. 

Justin Slaughter, a consultant at Mercury Strategies, said at the beginning of this year: “The sheriff is coming to the preeminent financial regulator in the world. It means regulation and enforcement are about to get much tougher.”