SEC’s new law enforcement chief unexpectedly resigns

The chief law enforcement officer at the U.S. markets regulator resigned just days after being appointed, following criticism from a judge over her conduct during her previous job for ExxonMobil as corporate lawyer.

Alex Oh announced Wednesday that she would resign as chief law enforcement officer of the Securities and Exchange Commission just six days after being appointed, citing “personal reasons.”

But in an email seen by the Financial Times, she told Gary Gensler, the recently confirmed SEC official, that her resignation was due to ” [which] occurred this week in one of the cases I worked on while I was still in private law ”.

It came two days after a District of Columbia judge raised the possibility of punishing Oh for accusing an opposing lawyer of being “agitated, disrespectful and disturbed” during a hearing in an ExxonMobil case.

The resignation is a blow to Gensler, who has a reputation for being tough on corporate wrongdoing and had to oversee a stricter enforcement regime than under the Trump administration.

Gensler said in a statement, “I thank Alex for his willingness to serve the country at this important time.”

Oh could not be reached for comment.

Gensler’s choice of Oh dismayed progressives, who criticized her experience as a corporate lawyer with a history of representing multinational corporations.

While working for international law firm Paul Weiss, she represented ExxonMobil in a civil case in which the oil company was accused of hiring private security forces in Indonesia who killed and tortured local villagers .

In the long-running litigation, a dispute over the conduct of ExxonMobil lawyers erupted after lawyers for Indonesian villagers interviewed Mark Snell, a senior lawyer for ExxonMobil, on February 14. callous, answering questions at length from a prepared script, in a tactic they say was devised and encouraged by ExxonMobil lawyers.

In a cross-trial, lawyers for the oil company insisted, “The witness answered more than 300 substantive questions, the vast majority of them without referring to any notes.”

In an order issued Monday, just four days after Oh began his new job with the SEC, a Washington DC judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs over the conduct of the attorneys, ordering the Indonesian branch of ExxonMobil to go back to court “to provide direct and responsive answers”.

He then criticized Oh personally, saying he could punish her for alleging without evidence that the plaintiffs’ attorney had been “agitated, disrespectful and disturbed” during the hearing.

In his email to Gensler, Oh said: “In light of the time and attention it will take me, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot approach this development without it becoming an unwanted distraction for me. the important work of the division (of the application). . “

Brad Karp, chairman of Paul Weiss, said in a statement: “We cannot comment on this issue as it involves a decision in an ongoing litigation. Alex is a person of the utmost integrity and an accomplished professional, with a strong code of ethics.

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