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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 22:32 GMT 23:32 UK
Senate panel backs new SEC chief
Republican Congressman Christopher Cox with President George W Bush
Christopher Cox is seen as close to the financial services industry
A US Senate panel has backed Republican Congressman Christopher Cox to head the US markets watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Mr Cox was nominated by President George W Bush to succeed William Donaldson, who stepped down on 30 June.

He now faces a confirmation by the 100 member Senate, a vote he should win.

Mr Cox is expected to adopt a more "laissez-faire" approach, which some fear could mean a more relaxed regulatory regime.

Mr Cox, a former corporate lawyer, is seen as close to the finance industry.

As a congressman, he was responsible for steering through reforms which made investor lawsuits more difficult - an achievement hailed by some business groups.


But consumer and investor groups claimed that it cut back on accountability in the corporate world and helped create the opportunity for scandals such as Enron and WorldCom to take place.

Several similar high-profile cases prompted the US to pass new reporting laws - known as Sarbanes-Oxley or Sox rules - which hold corporate bosses responsible for their companies' results.

Mr Cox has yet to say what his plans are for the Commission, where he will oversee corporate disclosure, stock market regulation and investigations into allegations of corporate wrongdoing.

But he did signal that he could adopt a more conciliatory approach to business during a press conference with President Bush where he promised that the SEC would work with US businesspeople "to help build a better America".

Accounting and finance companies have made large contributions to his political campaigns. Between 1993 and 2004, the financial services sector was the single biggest source of corporate campaign donations, contributing 21% of the total or almost $1m.

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