SEC Enforcement Chief Steps Down After Progressives Object to Her Corporate Work Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters in Washington (AP Photo, File)
By Nick Koutsobinas | Wednesday, 28 April 2021 08:53 PM
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler's pick for agency's enforcement chair, Alex Oh, resigned on Wednesday after criticism was raised from progressive activist groups over her work as a corporate defense lawyer.
Oh had a two-decade-long history in private practice where she represented Fortune 100 companies such as ExxonMobil. She commented, saying she was stepping down due to a development in a case she had with the gas company. "In light of the time and attention it will take from me, I have reached the conclusion that I cannot address this development without it becoming an unwelcome distraction to the important work of the Division," Oh said, according to Politico.
Oh, left, after Gensler's pick started to draw growing concerns from progressive activists. But progressives praised President Joe Biden for picking Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs partner, who was said to be tough on banking regulation.
After Oh's departure, Gensler announced SEC lawyer Melissa Hodgman would return to the enforcement chair. A group of activist groups, including Demand Progress, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and the Revolving Door Project sent a letter to Gensler Tuesday criticizing the pick; questioning if Oh "will change her entire legal philosophy toward fully enforcing the very laws and regulations whose enforcement she has built a career of defending against."
"We therefore ask you to immediately reconsider your decision to name Alex Oh for this position, and instead to select an attorney with a proven track record of public-oriented service, of which there is no shortage."
As a result, the growing attention also drew the ears of Gensler's progressive allies on Capitol Hill. A progressive democrat reportedly said, "There's a lot of skepticism that someone who spent two decades helping big corporations dodge the SEC is the person to lead an aggressive revival of SEC enforcement. A lot of people will be closely watching what she does and now watching Gensler more closely, too."
The concern was she would be too lax on regulating Wall Street due to her past in the private sector.
Barbara Roper, the Consumer Federation of America's director of investor protection, said, "Ultimately, I trust Gensler to be tough on Wall Street, so I expect his enforcement director will share that goal, regardless of her background," Roper then added, "If that proves not to be the case, we won't be shy about expressing our views."