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By Chris Prentice
WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday named former federal prosecutor Alex Oh as its new head of enforcement, the first woman of color to lead the division, which plays a crucial role in policing U.S. financial markets.
The appointment of Oh, a native of Seoul who moved to Maryland when she was 11, is the first big move under Chair Gary Gensler and comes amid a diversity push by President Joe Biden's administration.
Oh, who most recently worked for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Llp in Washington, has extensive trial experience and was previously an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. She has also done pro bono work on issues relating to voting restrictions and attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
"I am 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," Oh said in a statement.
Oh's return to government comes as the SEC has begun probing the frenzied marketplace for blank-check acquisition companies and has targeted climate risk as a focus for its enforcement unit. The agency is also expected to ratchet up scrutiny of cryptocurrencies.
The new SEC leadership is expected to usher in a tougher regulatory regime for Wall Street. As chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, Gensler oversaw the prosecution of big investment banks for rigging Libor, the benchmark for trillions of dollars in lending worldwide.
"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 Thursday's statement. (Reporting by Chris Prenticed; editing by Jonathan Oatis)