The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced on Wednesday that recently-hired enforcement director Alex Young K. Oh has resigned after only four days on the job.
The agency cited only “personal” reasons for the departure but it became quickly apparent that those reasons were related to a federal judge raising the prospect of sanctions in a matter that Oh had recently handled while she was in private practice as a partner at Paul Weiss.
Oh sent her formal resignation to SEC Chief Gary Gensler on Wednesday, saying that a "development" arose this week in one of the cases she worked on while at Paul Weiss that could not be addressed without creating "an unwelcome distraction" for the enforcement division.
The “development” was a ruling handed down on Monday by Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia over the conduct of attorneys representing Exxon in a civil case involving claims of human rights abuses in the Aceh province of Indonesia by local residents at the hands of military security personnel employed by Exxon.
According to the ruling, Exxon’s lawyers claimed without providing evidence that the plaintiffs’ attorneys were “agitated, disrespectful and unhinged” during a deposition. Lamberth ordered Exxon’s lawyers to show why penalties were not warranted for those disparaging comments.
The ruling did not single out any lawyers by name. Ms. Oh, however, was one of the lead lawyers for Exxon in that matter.
The case against Exxon alleges that Indonesian military members providing security at Exxon-operated natural gas development facilities inflicted "grievous injuries" on nearby residents, including "sexual assault, kidnapping, torture, and other acts of cruel and inhumane treatment.”
Former acting Enforcement Director Melissa R. Hodgman will return her previous role, the SEC said Wednesday. "Melissa is an exceptional attorney who has proven to be an effective leader of the Enforcement Division. 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," SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in the announcement. Referring to Oh, Gensler said, "I thank Alex for her willingness to serve the country at this important time."