Oxley '69 Doesn’t Slow Down After Leaving U.S. House
It’s no secret that the life of a politician is busy. Legislative duties, meetings with constituents, and social events are crammed into an already tight schedule.
Michael Oxley ’69 lived that schedule for 34 years, including the last 25 years as a distinguished member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He also was the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
But when Oxley left Congress in 2007 he failed to leave behind his hefty workload. A year and a half since he left his career in public life, the 64-year-old hasn’t slowed down.
“The CEO of NASDAQ asked me the other day if I am busier now than when I was in Congress,” he said. “I am just about as busy during the week, but the real plus is that I have my weekends. That is not the case with Congress. I didn’t really think about it too much until I left; many of my obligations used to run through the weekend. I really enjoy the better balance now.”
Oxley has taken on several new roles. He’s the non-executive vice chairman of the NASDAQ exchange. He’s working as “of counsel” for Baker Hostetler in Washington, D.C., and he continually accepts speaking engagements at universities, conferences, and businesses around the world.
Shortly after stepping down from his position in Washington, Oxley signed on with Baker Hostetler. “I advise companies on a regular basis in terms of their internal corporate governance procedures,” he said.
When corporations are under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, the department will oftentimes appoint a monitor for the corporate entity, Oxley said. He’s been assisting with such projects since he started at Baker.
“It’s definitely different than the kind of law I’m used to practicing,” Oxley said.
Before entering the political realm, Oxley practiced law for nine years in his father’s Findlay, Ohio, law firm. “I did a lot of small-town lawyer cases, like domestic relations, bankruptcy, and real estate law. This is obviously on a different plane.”
But Oxley now brings a wealth of knowledge that prepares him for his new role, much of which was derived from his time in Congress and from leading the House Financial Services Committee.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in response to a number of major corporate scandals, is the legislative action that Oxley is most often associated with. The Act addresses the range of corporate accountability issues by increasing the transparency of corporate financial statements, reforming oversight of accounting, and restoring investor confidence. But, he said, he’s equally as proud of countless other changes that he contributed to while in Congress. He mentioned “Check 21,” passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which allowed banks to use digital images of checks, rather than relying on the actual checks to be transported. Among local accomplishments, he also was proud of completing the Route 30 reconstruction through his home district, which includes his hometown of Findlay, Ohio.
“It took me 20-plus years to get it done, but it got done,” he said.
His new position with Baker Hostetler does allow him to return to the capitol, but in a completely different role. Barred from lobbying for a year after his retirement from the U.S. House of Representatives, Oxley said that he wasn’t able to “come out of the bullpen” until January.
“It is kind of fun because instead of the catcher you are the pitcher,” he said. “You have to think about the message that you are trying to send. I always respected people who had an advocacy position that was concise and accurate. I know how much the recipient is looking for brevity and getting to the point.”
The former representative is also quite busy in his role as vice chairman for NASDAQ, the largest U.S. electronic equities exchange. He was named to the position in March 2007, and is primarily responsible for working with the exchange’s company chief executives and board members on NASDAQ's behalf and overseeing outreach to NASDAQ-listed companies on public policy issues.
Oxley said that in his first nine months with NASDAQ he visited China, Israel, Brazil, Hong Kong, and 16 U.S. cities.
Oxley said that he also tries to coordinate public speaking engagements, which he also has scheduled regularly since his retirement, in conjunction with his business trips. He recently joined former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) to speak to the Oxford University School of Business in Bombay, India, on corporate governance.
“I really have the opportunity to travel all over the world now,” he said.
Oxley has had the opportunity to return to Ohio State on occasion. He said that he has remained friends with several members of the Class of 1969, which includes a number of classmates who are or were involved in politics.
“The people that I met in law school and still know today were probably the highlight of law school,” he said. “The first year of law school is a challenge for anybody. I felt like I had that Black’s Law Dictionary strapped to my back. Your senior year in college you think you’re on top of the world, and then you go to law school and that all comes crashing down. It is a real tough year.”
He said that he’ll never forget when he was asked to be in charge of an incoming 1L orientation at the Ohio State College of Law. He was able to get C. William O’Neill ’42 to provide a keynote speech. O’Neill was the only person in Ohio to hold positions in all three branches of government. He was the Ohio governor, speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, and chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
“It was a really neat experience,” he said. “It was a forgone conclusion that I would go into politics, but Bill O’Neill’s speech really kicked off the law school experience for that class. It was just a very inspirational speech.”
It may have been a forgone conclusion for Oxley to enter politics, but his accomplishments and success are something he has worked – and continues to work – hard to achieve.