Nominee for US SEC chairman has large fund, stock holdings

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 13 Jul 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) - President George W. Bush's choice to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, Rep. Christopher Cox, has hundreds of thousands of dollars in money-market and mutual funds and large holdings in stocks of some big companies, his financial report shows. 

Bush last month selected Cox, a California Republican who is a free-market conservative, to head the SEC after the surprise resignation of Chairman William Donaldson, whom Bush had installed to help restore confidence in a stock market shaken by corporate scandals. 

In his financial disclosure report prepared for his Senate confirmation hearing, which became available Tuesday, Cox lists total holdings of between $565,004 and $1.15 million in stock of Coca-Cola Co., Newmont Mining Corp., Continental Airlines Inc. and Gold Fields Ltd. of South Africa. 

His wife, Rebecca, is a lobbyist for Continental, the fifth-largest U.S. carrier. 

The airline's chief executive officer told shareholders at the annual meeting last month that their relationship isn't expected to present any conflicts of interest with Cox as SEC chairman. 

Cox's report indicates that he does not intend to set up a blind trust for his assets, apparently following advice from the SEC's ethics office that he is not required under ethics rules to do so. 

Cox spokesman James Freeman had no immediate comment. Members of the SEC ethics office staff referred calls to agency spokesman John Heine, who declined comment. 

The exact value of Cox's assets could not be determined from the financial forms because they only require values to be provided in ranges. 

His investments in Coca-Cola and Newmont Mining stock, each between $250,001 and $500,000, are among his biggest single holdings, which also include two Smith Barney funds worth between $500,001 and $1 million each. 

Cox would earn $142,500 a year as chairman of the market watchdog agency if confirmed by the Senate as expected, compared with his congressional salary of $162,100.  

He is the first member of Congress to be nominated to head the 70-year-old SEC. 

Many of the previous chairmen came from Wall Street, as did Donaldson, or were securities lawyers. 

Cox, 52, now chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has been in Congress for 16 years.  

A graduate of both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, he was a securities attorney before becoming a lawmaker.  

In the House, Cox authored legislation that made it easier for companies to defend against some types of lawsuits by shareholders. 

Business interests, which had chafed at Donaldson's activist regulatory stance, welcomed Cox's selection by Bush. Investor advocates expressed concern. 

Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wrote in a recent letter to lawmakers that Cox "has repeatedly undermined protections for investors,'' urging senators to reject him. - AP 

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