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The SEC’s top Wall Street cop, the first woman of color to hold the job, just resigned after less than a week in the role. Progressive groups that have been pressuring the Biden administration not to hire certain corporate lawyers are thrilled by the news.
Alex Oh, an ex-prosecutor and longtime lawyer at the elite firm Paul Weiss, was appointed to be the SEC’s enforcement director last Thursday. She was the first big hire made by the agency’s chair, Gary Gensler.
But on Wednesday evening, the SEC said Oh had resigned, citing “personal reasons.” In her resignation letter, Oh wrote that a recent “development” in a case she worked on at Paul Weiss would become an “unwelcome distraction” if she were to remain in her role at the SEC.
Oh appeared to be referring to a lawsuit brought two decades ago by Indoneisan citizens who want to make Exxon Mobil Corp. pay for alleged human-rights abuses carried out by the oil giant’s security personnel in Indonesia. Earlier this week, a judge overseeing the Exxon case ordered Oh’s law firm to account for why they falsely accused her adversaries of inappropriate conduct during a videotaped deposition.
Oh had not previously made SEC chairman Gary Gensler aware of the risk that the judge could find fault with her conduct in the case, according to a source familiar with the circumstances of Oh’s resignation who didn’t have permission to share the information.
Behind the scenes, progressives who opposed Oh’s appointment had also pressured the agency to drop her. They specifically took issue with the work Oh did at Paul Weiss. While the firm has long had close ties to Democrats, it has also been one of Exxon’s go-to law firms for years, helping squelch climate-change lawsuits brought by cities and regulators. Activist groups have said lawyers who do important work for big corporations can’t be trusted to effectively police their former clients while in government.
Dennis Kelleher, who leads the group Better Markets, called Oh’s resignation an “opportunity” for the SEC to hire someone with different qualifications. He encouraged the Biden administration to look to the ranks of active prosecutors and state and federal securities regulators for the SEC’s next enforcement director.
“That’s what the American people deserve, not yet another Wall Street defense lawyer with years, if not decades, of excusing and defending private sector clients accused of breaking the law, often repeatedly and egregiously,” Kelleher said in a statement.
It’s unclear what exactly went down behind the scenes, but Oh’s resignation appears to be over her involvement in the Exxon human rights case. The case has been pending for two decades, bogged down by appeals and complexity.
In February, lawyers from Cohen Milstein, which is representing the Indonesians, accused Exxon’s lawyers of breaking court rules, saying that one of its witnesses appeared to have been reading from a script for parts of his deposition and wouldn’t give straight answers to questions. They also said one of Exxon’s attorneys, who wasn’t named, falsely accused them of “screaming,” …read more
Source:: Businessinsider – Finance
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