WASHINGTON – Rep. Michael Oxley (search), R-Ohio, whose name for better or for worse is emblazoned on a landmark 2002 financial reform bill, announced Tuesday he would step down at the end of his term in 2006.
The announcement comes after 25 years of service on Capitol Hill. Oxley said he just felt it was his time to retire.
"I've always been an intuitive politician, and it just made sense after 25 years in Congress and nine years in the (Ohio) legislature," Oxley told The Associated Press. "I've paid my dues."
Oxley, 61, represents Ohio's 4th Congressional District, a largely rural area with ample farmland.
Oxley, an attorney and former FBI (search) agent, has played a role in many high-profile pieces of legislation, including a recent anti-Internet voyeurism bill, anti-terror funding portions in the Patriot Act (search) and identity theft protections.
Possibly the most famous piece of legislation was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a financial reform package spearheaded by Oxley — chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (search), D-Md. The bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in the aftermath of the collapse of energy commodities trader Enron Corp. (search) and other high-profile corruption scandals.
Based on a faulty and deceptive system of accounting, Enron built huge gains on paper that later were revealed to be based in pure fiction. The company's financial collapse left thousands of employees with worthless retirement holdings and gave way to deep questions about the country's oversight of corporate juggernauts.
Sarbanes-Oxley (search) was designed to protect investors through improved financial disclosure systems and heightened criminal penalties.
"What the law really does is enshrine the principles of honestly and accountability that I learned growing up in Ohio ... You never get in trouble by doing the right thing," Oxley said in a statement Tuesday.
The reforms are cited by private-sector officials as financially burdensome, but the reforms also are recognized by some as the biggest change in federal financial oversight since the reforms in the 1930s following the Great Depression.
One recent test of the law was in the trial of Richard Scrushy (search), the former CEO of HealthSouth. He was acquitted earlier this year of 36 violations of Sarbanes-Oxley.
Sarbanes, who also has announced he will not seek re-election next year, credited Oxley with his efforts after the corporate scandals.
"He was a critical partner in our efforts to enact legislation to curb corporate abuse. ... We were united in our objective to restore investors' confidence in the integrity of our capital markets, which had been so egregiously undermined," Sarbanes said.
"His expertise will be missed in the Congress," Sarbanes said.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (search) also praised the Ohio congressman for a long history of achievements, citing his most recent as passage of a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform bill last week.
"Mike Oxley has provided steady, dedicated leadership to House Republicans, and I am grateful for his service," Hastert said in a release.