Former House chairman, top Finra lobbyist, Michael Oxley, dies

Mr. Oxley was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in the 2000s and promoted a self-regulatory organization for advisers

Jan 4, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Michael G. Oxley, a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and a top Finra lobbyist, died on New Year's Day.

Best known as the author of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law designed to stop corporate financial accounting fraud, Mr. Oxley became a lobbyist for the financial services industry after leaving Congress in 2007. Since 2011, he has represented the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., the industry-funded broker-dealer regulator, before Congress.

Mr. Oxley, who was of counsel at the law firm BakerHostetler, died of lung cancer at the age of 71, according to the Bloomberg News obituary.

As a member of Finra's lobbying team, Mr. Oxley advocated for legislation in 2012 that would have established a self-regulatory organization for investment advisers.

Finra argued that an SRO was needed to strengthen oversight of advisers. Adviser groups opposed the bill, saying it would create costly new regulatory burdens and open the door to Finra taking over adviser regulation from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Despite being written by the then-chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., and having the backing of former chairman Mr. Oxley, the measure failed to gain support from a majority of Republicans on the panel.

The most recent regulatory filing regarding Mr. Oxley's work for Finra — from the third quarter of 2015 — did not specify his current agenda. It said Mr. Oxley worked on “regulation of securities industry and markets.”

Since the demise of Mr. Bachus' legislation, Finra has backed off its effort to pass an SRO bill. One problem is that the current chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, hasn't expressed interest in the issue.

“He's had another agenda totally,” said a lobbyist for investment adviser advocacy groups, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely about Capitol Hill politics. “That really more than anything has kept Finra from moving that issue forward. The environment doesn't seem to be fertile right now.”

Even though an SRO bill is not on the horizon, Mr. Oxley was a Finra asset, said Duane Thompson, senior policy analyst at Fi360, a fiduciary training firm.

"Not every organization has a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee to represent them,” Mr. Thompson said. “In that context, it's a loss.”

Finra chairman and chief executive Richard G. Ketchum praised Mr. Oxley for “a distinguished career" and for being “a great leader.”

“[Mr.] Oxley garnered the respect and fondness of countless colleagues on both sides of the aisle, his constituents and those of us who were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work with him. His kindness, enthusiasm and humor will be sorely missed,” Mr. Ketchum said in a statement.

The SEC is currently drafting a rule that would allow third-party exams of advisers. The agency can proceed without Congressional authorization, but Mr. Oxley could have been in the middle of that debate, if lawmakers had wanted to weigh in.

“My impression is that as a former chairman, he got along with both sides of the aisle and would have been a valuable player working on third-party exams,” Mr. Thompson said.

At a time when most Capitol Hill activity is punctuated by partisan rancor, Mr. Oxley was a throwback to a time when the parties could work together, even when they didn't agree.

“He was a very nice gentleman, more of an old-school Republican,” Mr. Thompson said.

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