Former U.S. representative Mike Oxley, an Ohio Republican who helped write landmark anti-fraud legislation after a wave of corporate scandals that brought down Enron and WorldCom, died Jan. 1 in McLean, Va. He was 71.
He had non-small cell lung cancer, a type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers, said his wife, Patricia Oxley.
Mr. Oxley left Congress in 2007 after 25 years in the House, where he devoted most of his time to issues involving corporate oversight and insurance protection. He led an effort to investigate failed energy giant Enron and helped create new accounting requirements in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The law reshaped corporate oversight after accounting scandals in the early 2000s at Enron, WorldCom and other major corporations exposed inadequate internal controls and auditors who had become too cozy with the companies whose books they examined. Those corporate scandals and others wiped out retirement accounts, cost investors billions and pushed people out of work.
Small companies later complained that the law made it more costly to comply with requirements for reports on their internal financial controls.
Pro-business conservatives challenged the law in court, arguing that a board established to oversee the accounting industry and the industry’s own regulators violated the separation of powers.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 agreed that the law violated the Constitution’s separation of powers mandate. But its decision required only a slight change affecting provisions for the removal of members of the oversight board.
In the House, Mr. Oxley was chairman of the Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over banking and Wall Street issues.
The Toledo Blade newspaper reported in 2003 that after Mr. Oxley became chairman, he raised $920,000 from securities and investment firms, $740,000 from insurance companies, $480,000 from banks and $330,000 from accountants. Mr. Oxley said reports of fundraising influencing policy were ludicrous.
Mr. Oxley, a former FBI agent, advocated giving law enforcement agencies greater ability to unscramble encrypted computer files. He was also the chief House sponsor of legislation requiring operators of commercial websites to restrict young people’s access to sexually explicit material.
Michael Garver Oxley was born in Findlay, Ohio, on Feb. 11, 1944. He received a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1966 and a law degree from Ohio State University in 1969.
He was an FBI agent for three years before he was elected to the Ohio House in 1972. He won a special election to the U.S. House in 1981 by 341 votes to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Rep. Tennyson Guyer (R).
Mr. Oxley rarely faced a close election after that. He served a district in northwest Ohio that was one of the state’s most solidly Republican strongholds and that included his home town.
After his retirement, Mr. Oxley became a lobbyist in the financial sector. He was chairman of the Lung Cancer Alliance’s board of directors. Survivors include his wife, a son and a grandson.