Risk & Compliance

New SEC Enforcement Chief Alex Oh Resigns

Oh's resignation after only a few days on the job followed a judge's ruling in a case in which she represented ExxonMobil.
Matthew HellerApril 29, 2021

Alex Oh

Alex Oh, the new head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement unit, has stepped down after only a few days on the job.

The SEC announced Oh’s resignation on Wednesday, citing only “personal reasons.” SEC Chair Gary Gensler had appointed her director of the Division of Enforcement on April 22.

But The New York Times, citing a person briefed on the matter, said a court ruling Monday in a case in which Oh, a former partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, had represented ExxonMobil prompted her to resign.

The plaintiffs in the case are Indonesian villagers who have accused Exxon of abetting human rights abuses in their country. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered defense counsel to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for alleging that a plaintiffs’ lawyer was “agitated, disrespectful, and unhinged” during a deposition “despite a lack of record evidence supporting those allegations.”

He also ordered Exxon to “serve a copy of this order on Ms. Oh.”

In her resignation letter, Oh said the matter would be “an unwelcome distraction to the important work” of the enforcement division.

Prior to private practice, Oh, a graduate of Yale Law School, was a federal prosecutor in New York. “Alex brings to the role of director the right combination of values and experience to vigorously root out wrongdoing in our markets,” Gensler said in announcing her appointment.

“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,” he added.

The SEC said Oh will be replaced on an acting basis by Melissa Hodgman, who returns to a role she had filled from January 2021 to April 2021.

“Melissa is an exceptional attorney who has proven to be an effective leader of the Enforcement Division,” Gensler said. “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.”