Christopher Cox, who quietly stepped into the chairman’s post at the Securities and Exchange Commission last Friday, has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. But if the congressman’s advocates in Washington, D.C., are anywhere near as powerful as his friends in the tech industry, Cox’s confirmation hearing, likely this week, should be a piece of cake. Among his heavy-hitting allies in Silicon Valley: John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Intuit co-founder Scott Cook.
“Chris was a classmate of mine at Harvard Business School … [and] he was a roommate of Scott Cook’s,” Doerr told Private Equity Week in an email. “I’ve backed him in several races.We both believe he is very smart, a straight shooter, and well qualified for this important job.”
Cox, 52, graduated with business and law degrees from Harvard – at the same time – in 1977.
He joined Latham & Watkins in Orange County, Calif., the next year, becoming a partner in charge or corporate development. From there, it was on to politics. Since 1994, Cox, a Republican, has been elected to Congress nine times. He’s currently chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and served until this year as chairman of the House Policy Committee.
His appointment doesn’t come without dissent. His critics point to legislation that Cox helped author in 1995, the Private Security Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Consumer Federation President Barbara Roper told the Orange County Register that the ability of accountants and other corporate officials to avoid lawsuits as a result of Cox’s bill is “one of the factors that led to the dramatic rise of accounting fraud.”
Business groups are widely supportive of Cox, who is recognized as being pro-business and anti-regulation. To their delight, he opposed the expensing of stock options.
And while he voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, Cox has shown himself willing to revamp accounting rules devised by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which alone catapults his popularity with business groups past that of his predecessor, William Donaldson.
Donaldson, a Republican and onetime chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, leaves his mark as a tough regulator who was willing to side with Democratic commissioners when it came down to ushering through what he deemed as necessary reforms. Those reforms include mutual fund governance, stock trading and increased oversight of hedge funds.
Whether VCs registered to the Democratic party will take to Cox remains to be seen. Doerr, for one, thinks it unwise to focus too much on the appointment of Cox by President Bush.
“I’ve always believed in backing the best candidate, and policy, regardless of what party originates/favors/opposes it,” he says in his email. “In fact, I’m a registered Republican who generally backs Democrats.All the action in policy making comes when we find common ground, in the middle.”