New Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler has made his first key appointment: Alex Oh as director of the Division of Enforcement.
Oh, named to the post Thursday, was most recently a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where she was co-chair of the law firm’s Anti-Corruption & Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) practice group. She previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she was a member of the Securities & Commodities Fraud Task Force and the Major Crimes Unit.
Oh said in an SEC press release she is “committed to working tirelessly to uncover and prosecute violations of the law, whether by businesses or their leaders, so that we can keep American capital markets the strongest in the world.”
According to her bio since removed from Paul Weiss’s Website, Oh has defended some of America’s largest public companies and banks, including UBS, Pfizer, Merck, and Exxon Mobil, as well as several unnamed companies in SEC and FCPA investigations.
“Our capital markets – and the broader economy – thrive when there are clear rules of the road and a cop on the beat to enforce them,” Gensler said in a statement. “Alex brings to the role of Director the right combination of values and experience to vigorously root out wrongdoing in our markets. 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.”
It comes as little surprise Gensler’s first major hire would be to lead the Division of Enforcement, seeing as many experts believe a Gensler-led SEC will be much more aggressive in enforcing securities laws against Wall Street firms and large banks. Insider trading, market manipulation, and retaliation against whistleblowers are thought to be some areas where the SEC will be more likely to pursue enforcement actions than it was under former Chair Jay Clayton.
The Enforcement Division has had a series of leaders since December, when Stephanie Avakian stepped down after serving in the role since 2017. Much of that time came alongside Co-Director Steven Peikin, who himself stepped down in August 2020.
Marc Berger took over as acting head of enforcement for about a month, until President Joe Biden took office, and then he too left the job.
Melissa Hodgman, who had been an associate director, was later appointed by the SEC as acting head of the division, with Kelly Gibson as acting deputy director.
The changing of the guard at the SEC will likely continue apace under Gensler, with several key posts currently filled by acting directors or chiefs. Those with acting titles include leaders of the Division of Corporation Finance (John Coates), Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (Chyhe Becker), Division of Trading and Markets (Christian Sabella), and Office of the Whistleblower (Emily Pasquinelli).