Christopher Cox ’73, the former U.S. representative from Southern California and 28th chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was elected to the USC Board of Trustees on Oct. 5.
Cox currently is a partner at the international law firm of Bingham McCutchen LLP and president of Bingham Consulting LLC.
“Throughout a distinguished career spanning politics, law, academia and business, Christopher Cox has remained an ardent advocate for his alma mater and its mission,” said USC president C. L. Max Nikias in announcing the election. “USC is fortunate indeed to have the benefit of Chris’ continued guidance, insight and engagement in his new role as a trustee.”
A native of St. Paul, Minn., Cox graduated magna cum laude from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 1973, having taken only three years to complete his bachelor’s degree in English and political science. In 1977, he earned his MBA and JD degrees simultaneously from Harvard University, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
After graduating from Harvard, Cox clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals judge Herbert Choy from 1977 to 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he specialized in venture capital and corporate finance with the international law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP, where he was the partner in charge of the corporate department in Orange County. He took a leave of absence from 1982 to 1983 to teach federal income tax at Harvard Business School.
In 1984, Cox and his father also co-founded Context Corp., which published daily English translations of Pravda, the Soviet Union’s leading newspaper. Used primarily by universities and government agencies, the publication was distributed in 26 countries around the world. Cox traced his interest in the Soviet Union to his experiences at USC, where he studied the state-controlled newspaper in connection with a Russian language course.
Cox entered politics at age 35, when President Ronald Reagan hired him as a White House counsel. Cox advised the president on matters ranging from the nomination of three U.S. Supreme Court justices to reform of the federal budget process and the 1987 stock market crash.
Following his White House service, Cox represented Orange County in the U.S. Congress from 1988 to 2005. For 10 of those 17 years, from 1994 to 2005, he served in the elected leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, as chairman of the House Policy Committee.
For four years following 9/11, he also chaired the Committee on Homeland Security. In addition, he served as chairman of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Study Group on Enhancing Multilateral Export Controls. In 1994, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform.
Cox also served as a senior member of every committee with jurisdiction over investor protection and U.S. capital markets, including the House Energy and Commerce Committee (as vice chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee), the Financial Services Committee, the Government Reform Committee (as vice chairman of the full committee), the Joint Economic Committee and the Budget Committee.
Among the significant laws he authored were the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, the Internet Tax Freedom Act and the Support for European Democracy Act. In addition, his legislative efforts to eliminate the double tax on shareholder dividends – the subject of a thesis he wrote at Harvard in 1977 – led to the enactment in May 2003 of legislation that cut the double tax on dividends by more than half.
In 2005, Cox was nominated by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 28th chairman of the SEC. Cox led the SEC’s expansion of its international enforcement coordination with other markets, proposed a roadmap for convergence of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and International Financial Reporting Standards, moved U.S. financial reporting to interactive data technology and imposed record-high penalties in enforcement actions for market abuses during the 2008 financial crisis.
During his time in the country’s capital, Cox maintained close ties with his alma mater, hosting a number of “USC in D.C.” events as part of the university’s federal relations outreach efforts, participating in the opening of the USC Office of Research Advancement in Washington, D.C., in 2007, and speaking at university events on campus and in Washington. Cox also is a frequent speaker at the annual USC Corporate Governance Summit, organized by the USC Marshall School of Business.
A second-generation Trojan, Cox received USC’s highest alumni honor, the Asa V. Call Alumni Achievement Award, at the USC Alumni Association’s 75th Awards Gala in 2008. During the ceremony, his father, Charles Cox, finally was awarded his USC diploma. The elder Cox had been a USC senior preparing to graduate when he was called to military duty in World War II. On what would have been his graduation day in June 1943, he was on a ship headed for the Philippines.
Cox and his wife, Rebecca, have three children and reside in Newport Beach.