The United States Securities and Exchange Commission new enforcement chief, Alex Oh, has resigned from her position with the SEC just days after taking the role.
According to an official SEC announcement, Oh stepped down for personal reasons. However, in Oh’s resignation letter to Chairman Gary Gensler — as seen by Bloomberg — the former enforcement chief revealed she was stepping down to avoid becoming a distraction as she deals with controversies arising from a case she worked in the past.
Oh was previously a partner at the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison private law practice, where she represented, among others, oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. The case in question reportedly relates to Oh’s defense of Exxon against allegations that the firm had supported the torture and murder of Indonesian villagers.
Oh’s conduct during the litigation was brought into question by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday. Oh was asked to provide evidence for the unsupported claim she made during a deposition for the case that her opposing counsel was “agitated, disrespectful, and unhinged.”
“A development arose this week in one of the cases on which I worked while still in private law practice. I have reached the conclusion that I cannot address this development without it becoming an unwelcome distraction,” said Oh in her resignation letter to the SEC chairman.
Oh will be replaced by Melissa Hodgman, who previously served in the role in early 2021. Hodgman will serve as the acting director of enforcement going forward.
Gensler’s appointment as SEC chairman in mid-April was seen as a possible boon to the cryptocurrency space, given Gensler’s history as a blockchain educator and his acceptance of Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies’ role as new financial tools.
However, Oh’s resignation means Gensler is now without his first pick for the role of enforcement chief. How much this will disrupt Gensler’s plans during his tenure as SEC chairman remains to be seen.