Alex Oh: The Strange Case of the SEC Enforcement Chief Who Beat a Hasty Exit After Six Days on the Job

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 29, 2021 ~

Less than seven hours after Wall Street On Parade ran our negative critique on SEC Chairman Gary Gensler’s pick to be the top crime fighter at his agency, Alex Young K. Oh abruptly resigned that position after just six days on the job.

Corporate media is now attempting to blame the sudden exodus of the 20-year veteran of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison (one of the go-to law firms for the mega Wall Street banks) over her and/or her Paul Weiss colleagues saying something rude in a deposition where they were defense counsel for Exxon Mobil. (If you’ve ever sat for a deposition represented by Big Law on both sides, you know that rudeness is often de rigueur.)

According to reporting at Politico, lawyers for plaintiffs in the case told the court that the Paul Weiss lawyers “had characterized them as ‘agitated, disrespectful and unhinged.’ ” After four years of the highest officer in the land, President Donald Trump, Tweeting every manner of insult against elected officials and foreign dignitaries, that actually sounds rather tame to us.

We can assure you, without hesitation, that something far more insidious is going on here.

Paul Weiss represents the most powerful mega banks on Wall Street. And yet, this law partner with more than two decades at the firm and a Yale law degree was representing petty drug dealers and bank robbers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia according to federal court records.

We decided to take a look at cases in which Oh served as an attorney in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, since that is where most cases involving the serial crimes on Wall Street are conducted.

Looking at both open and closed cases dating back to 1997, we found 187 cases where Alex Oh had served as an attorney in the District Court for the Southern District of New York. Numerous cases involved securities fraud and occurred when Oh was an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Justice Department in that region. Oh served in that capacity for three and one-half years, from January 1997 to June 2000, according to her LinkedIn profile.

But here is where things get curious. The court records show that Oh was to receive notifications from the court not at the U.S. Attorney’s office, but as follows:

Alex Young Kyong Oh
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP (DC)
2001 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 223-7334
Fax: (202) 223-7474

We thought perhaps the Court updates the addresses of attorneys after the cases are closed. We checked for other former U.S. Attorneys in the Southern District of New York who are now with Big Law firms. Their court records showed them employed at the U.S. Attorney’s office when they were supposed to be employed there.

This raises the question as to whether Alex Oh was simply “loaned” to the U.S. Attorney’s office by Paul Weiss. If that sounds strange to you, consider that in February, long-tenured Paul Weiss law partner, Mark Pomerantz, took a leave to assist Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance, in his investigation into the finances of Donald Trump. The New York Times reported that Pomerantz had been “helping” Vance’s office “informally for months,” before taking a leave from Paul Weiss and joining Vance’s office. (See Editor’s update below.)

Deutsche Bank was one of Trump’s largest bank lenders over the years — even after other banks refused to lend to him. Deutsche Bank is also a longstanding client of Paul Weiss.

Dennis Kelleher, President of the nonprofit watchdog, Better Markets, issued the following statement in response to Oh’s resignation:

“The SEC has failed the American people by repeatedly selecting Wall Street defense lawyers as Directors of Enforcement. They come to the SEC with needless and unhelpful baggage, including crippling conflicts of interest regarding current and past clients as well as a mindset and milieu ill-suited to being an aggressive enforcer of the law against those past private sector clients. Regrettably, those past clients, who often get sweetheart deals from the SEC, are almost always also future clients when those former defense lawyers go through the revolving door upon leaving the SEC, as has happened with all the recent Enforcement Directors and even the most recent past two SEC Chairs…

“Today’s resignation of the SEC Director of Enforcement, who spent more than 20 years as a Wall Street defense lawyer and only a little more than three years as a prosecutor in the last millennium, should be viewed as an opportunity for the agency to select someone more appropriately qualified for the job, one with deep and broad experience in protecting the public interest without fear or favor. There are lots of highly qualified federal and state prosecutors, state securities regulators, and many others, including among the outstanding career professionals at the SEC itself, who would excel in that job.

“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. Now is the time to break with that disreputable pattern of hiring the wrong people hoping they will do the right job the American people need done.”

We say Amen to that.

Editor’s Update: The Press Office for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has informed us this morning that attorneys are allowed to update their contact information, which then is applied universally, even to old, closed cases. We have also reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for further clarification.

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