Michael G. Oxley, 71, who brought competitive intensity and joviality to legislating during a quarter-century as a House Republican from Ohio, died Thursday. He had lung cancer since soon after leaving the House of Representatives in 2006 to become a lobbyist.
Although his career was distinguished by free-market conservatism, Oxley’s name is forever tied to a law that is the bane of the business world, which he helped steer to passage in 2002 after a series of corporate scandals.
He was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and his legislative partner was the chairman of the companion Senate panel, Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes. Their work, known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, created new federal rules for accounting and new penalties for corporate malfeasance.
After the collapse of the energy giant Enron, at the time the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history, Oxley won passage of a legislative response panned by critics as too vague to be effective. It was quickly subsumed by a more assertive Senate measure after two more accounting scandals, involving Xerox and the telecommunications giant WorldCom, quickened momentum for government action.
Oxley fought unsuccessfully to limit the scope of the final bill. After leaving office he adopted a damned-with-faint praise approach to his signature accomplishment. “No law is perfect,” he told Fortune magazine in 2012.
Wall Street forgave him, and Oxley became one of the banking industry’s most frequently honored lawmakers.
During six years as Financial Services chairman, the maximum permitted by Republican rules, Oxley was central to writing laws creating the terrorism risk insurance program, fighting money laundering to reduce terrorists’ access to cash and reducing federal fees on securities sales.
Oxley had a reputation as a wisecracker and backslapper. He was also an unabashed defender of the “old school” perquisites that came with a seat in Congress, especially travel at the expense of others.
He was born on Feb. 11, 1944, in Findlay, Ohio. After earning degrees from Miami University of Ohio and Ohio State law school, Oxley spent three years in the FBI. He received a commendation for his role in the arrest of two Black Panthers accused of bank robbery.
In 1972, at age 28, he won a seat in the state House. His opening to run for Congress came in 1981, when Republican Rep. Tennyson Guyer died. Oxley won by 341 votes. He announced his retirement after winning his 12th term.
Robert O. Blake, 94, a career Foreign Service officer and former U.S. ambassador to Mali who participated in Cold War diplomacy in Moscow and in Washington, died Dec. 28 at his home in the nation’s capital.
He had prostate cancer, said his daughter, Lucy Blake.
Blake began his Foreign Service career in 1947, with his first overseas assignment in Nicaragua. Trained in Russian, and with expertise in Soviet affairs, he was posted to Moscow in the early 1950s — an assignment, he said in an oral history for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, that was the “great adventure of all time.”
After a stint in Tokyo, Blake returned to Washington, where he oversaw Soviet affairs at the State Department. Next came an assignment in Tunis, where he served during the retrenchment of French colonial influence in Africa.
He was assigned to the U.S. mission to the United Nations during the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, then served as in Kinshasa, in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in Paris.
As ambassador to Mali from 1970 to 1973, Blake worked on matters including famine relief. He later became deputy assistant secretary of state for international organizations before retiring from the Foreign Service in 1977.