Oxley quits politics for law firm

The co-author of the infamous Sarbanes-Oxley Act has entered private practice, joining Ohio-headquartered Baker Hostetler in Washington DC.

Michael Oxley, who was an Ohio representative (the US equivalent of an MP) in Congress until January of this year, will join Baker Hostetler’s 80-lawyer Washington DC office as of counsel, and will build up a public policy group.

This will be Oxley’s first spell in a law firm. Before going into politics, he worked for three years at the FBI.

Oxley’s name is now inextricably linked to that of Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, with whom he co-sponsored their eponymous act, passed in the wake of corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom.

Although it intended to bring powerful companies and their executives to account, it is viewed by many as too burdensome and directly responsible for New York’s fall as the world’s dominant capital market.

As reported in The Lawyer (5 March), the total raised in IPOs on the New York Stock Exchange has increased by 167 per cent since the Act was passed in 2002, while over the same period there has been a staggering 998 per cent increase in funds raised on the main list of the London Stock Exchange. Consultancy McKinsey & Company lays the blame with “Sarbox”, as the Act is known.

Oxley’s move to a law firm comes one day after that of another prominent politician, outgoing New York state governor George Pataki, who joined Chadbourne & Parke (as first reported in The Lawyer, 7 March).

Former public officials and politicians are popular with American firms, where public policy groups and white-collar litigation teams are particularly lucrative and high-profile areas of practice.

Meanwhile, Baker Hostetler has been on a hiring spree of late, hitting the headlines two weeks ago as it scooped a 19-lawyer group based in Los Angeles from the rapidly shrinking Texan firm Jenkens & Gilchrist (see www.thelawyer.com, 27 February).