Michael Oxley Dead at 71

BusinessCollageMichael G. Oxley, a former Ohio representative who helped write landmark anti-fraud legislation, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act,  after a wave of corporate scandals that brought down the Enron Corporation and WorldCom, died on Friday in McLean, Va. He was 71.

The cause was non-small cell lung cancer, a type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers, said his wife, Patricia. Mr. Oxley was chairman of the Lung Cancer Alliance board of directors. Mr. Oxley, a Republican, 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 Enron, the failed energy company, and helped create new accounting requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which took effect in 2002. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, also sponsored the legislation. The law reshaped corporate oversight after accounting scandals in 2001 and 2002 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 scandals and others wiped out retirement accounts and cost investors billions of dollars. Small companies later complained that the law brought added costs to comply with reporting requirements.

Pro-business conservatives argued that a board established to oversee the accounting industry and the industry’s own regulators had violated the separation of powers and challenged the law in court. The Supreme Court in 2010 agreed that the law violated the Constitution’s separation of powers mandate. But its decision required only a slight change in allowing 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.

Michael Garver Oxley was born on Feb. 11, 1944, in Findlay, Ohio. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and received a law degree from Ohio State.

Mr. Oxley, a former F.B.I. agent, advocated giving the police greater ability to unscramble encrypted computer files. He was the main sponsor of legislation in the House requiring operators of commercial websites to restrict young people’s access to sexually explicit material. He was an F.B.I. agent for three years before he was elected to the Ohio House in 1972. He won a special election to Congress in 1981 by 341 votes to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Tennyson Guyer. Mr. Oxley rarely faced a close election after that. After his retirement, Mr. Oxley became a lobbyist in the financial sector.