Benchmarking is big in compliance, with companies regularly comparing their programs to those of their peers. We’d suggest, however, that perhaps they’d be better off looking at the people behind the programs instead of the policies and procedures.

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We present that theory as a means of introducing our Top Minds Class of 2019, the stars of the compliance community (chosen from nearly 200 nominees) whose achievements are dwarfed only by their personal integrity and dedication to ethics. This year’s 12 standouts, whose in-depth profiles follow in this special edition, include the following:

  • A career investigator who cut his teeth at the Department of Justice and whose disarming personality aids in getting at the truth in a non-adversarial manner;
  • A collaborator who discovered that compliance by collision with like-minded problem solvers can pave a path to innovation;
  • A former Navy pilot who brought a military culture of leadership and ethics into his position at a global aerospace and security company;
  • A change agent who’s helping to institute a cultural shift at one of the world’s largest automotive companies in the wake of a scandal (and under the watchful eye of a corporate monitor, no less);
  • A sustainability strategist whose life purpose is to “remove barriers for those willing to be who they need to be”;
  • A globe-trotting Kiwi with a passion for compliance who has empowered women in the field and never forgets to “send the elevator back down”;
  • An affable executive who built compliance programs from the ashes of public scandals not once, but twice;
  • A relentless, bridge-building lawyer who specializes in protecting whistleblowers and making sure their messages get heard without fear of retaliation;
  • A confident compliance chief whose perilous childhood in an unstable part of the world formed the foundation for a career in managing crises; “If you’re going to walk through hell, walk like you own it,” she says.
  • A “super determined” former DOJ prosecutor who got the ball rolling on the first cyber-terrorism case in the United States and brought that expertise to one of the largest food and beverage companies in the world;
  • A “solutions-focused” realist who is growing a one-of-a-kind ethics and compliance graduate degree program after a near 20-year career as in-house counsel;
  • A compliance pioneer who spent two decades at the SEC—helping to establish the Office of Compliance and Examinations at the Commission—before taking his wisdom to the private sector.

The class also includes our inaugural Top Mind of Tomorrow, Hannah Levine, who is studying compliance at the Seton Hall School of Law and is in the top 3 percent of her class. After graduating next May, she plans on practicing at the “intersection of health law and compliance,” according to one of her professors.

Sounds like a Top Mind in the making to us.