Ex-SEC enforcement head Alex Oh hires D.C. bar president to battle sanctions motion

The Exxon corporate logo is pictured at one of the company's gas stations. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)

(Reuters) - Alex Oh, who became head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division last month but resigned a week later, has hired a lawyer of her own in a long-running international human rights case tied to her abrupt departure.

Oh resigned from the agency on April 28, after a judge said he was considering sanctions against her in litigation involving Exxon Mobil Corp that she had worked on at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. On Thursday Geoffrey Klineberg of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick entered an appearance in the Exxon case to represent Oh "with respect to sanctions issues."

Klineberg, who is president of the D.C. Bar and a former chair of its legal ethics committee, did not immediately provide comment on his involvement or the sanctions matter.

A representative for Paul, Weiss, where Oh worked for 17 years and co-led the anti-corruption team before joining the SEC last month, did not immediately respond. Oh does not appear in Paul Weiss's online lawyer directory.

The sanctions matter stems from a case in D.C. federal court in which Paul, Weiss was defending Exxon Mobil Corp against allegations under the Alien Tort Statute that it supported murder and torture in Indonesia, allegations it has denied. Oh withdrew from the case on April 22 to join the SEC, court records show.

In a filing on April 26, U.S. District Judge Royce Lambert, who is overseeing the Exxon litigation, raised questions over Oh's conduct during the deposition of a witness in the case.

Lambert gave Exxon'scounsel until May 14 to show why sanctions should not be imposed against the company's legal team, including Oh, "for alleging that plaintiffs' counsel was agitated, disrespectful, and unhinged during the deposition despite a lack of record evidence supporting those allegations."

In her resignation letter to SEC Chair Gary Gensler on April 28, shared with reporters, Oh said a “development” relating to one of her previous cases would be “an unwelcome distraction to the important work of the Division.”

Following Oh's resignation, the SEC named Melissa Hodgman as acting director of the enforcement division, a role she previously held between January and April.

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Caroline Spiezio covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firms and in-house counsel. She is based in New York. Reach her at Caroline.Spiezio@thomsonreuters.com.