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Welcome to Six Questions with an Ethics & Compliance Officer, a new interview series created in conjunction with National Compliance Officer Day. Each post will shine the spotlight on a different member of the E&C community, from established CCOs and CECOs with years of experience to rising stars with a passion for ethical behavior.

Q: How long have you been working in ethics and compliance?

17 years.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Evel Knievel—what kid alive in the early 1970s didn’t want to jump Snake River Canyon in a rocket?

Q: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

Leading compliance and ethics in large organizations is dynamic—no two days are the same. It’s both rewarding and challenging to wrestle with new issues as they arise and find innovative solutions to help the business achieve its objectives within a framework of compliance and ethics.

Q: What are three important traits a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer should possess?

Any individual who leads a compliance and ethics organization must be:

  1. Credible—this is a relationship-driven function. You can’t be successful if there is a trust void between you, the business leaders and the employees.
  2. Knowledgeable—To provide tangible value, you must understand how the business operates, their risks, and their pain points. Only then can you provide resources that can help them achieve results the right way.
  3. Positive—Compliance and Ethics leaders must be champions for the intended culture of the enterprise.  Many of the issues that come to Ethics can disrupt business as usual—e.g., an investigation that impacts morale and diverts management focus from business initiatives, or compliance requirements that demand business to operate in a fashion that it hadn’t initially contemplated. C&E leaders must model the correct leadership competencies in a positive way that becomes infectious.

Q: If someone wanted to get more involved in promoting ethical behavior in their organization today, what could they do?

Talk to the Ethics staff. The best way for the Ethics Office to be effective is to engage with the business. The best way to engage the business is to have contacts within the business who are willing to champion the message.

At Freddie Mac, we’ve developed something called “Integrity Building Blocks” which are group discussion scenarios. They are most effective when led by a peer in the business rather than by someone from the Ethics Team. We welcome employees who show an interest and want to get involved and can “deputize” them in a number of ways.

Q: What advice would you give to recent college graduates and other professionals who may want to pursue a career in ethics and compliance?

Don’t hesitate. Join a local network of professionals—in DC we have the Capital Area Business Ethics Network (CABEN) and when I worked in Boston we have the New England Ethics Forum (NEEF). There are many such regional networks. Join SCCE or ECI and attend their webinars and conferences. Get one of the compliance and ethics certifications.

Network. Network. Network. This profession is a very sharing profession, so find a mentor or mentors and ask lots of questions.


Michael Levin leads Freddie Mac’s Ethics Office including administration of the enterprise Code of Conduct and related policies, internal investigations, ethics training and awareness, and strategy. Before Michael joined Freddie Mac in June 2014, he served as director of Ethics and Business Conduct for the Government Operations and International divisions at The Boeing Company, and as Director of Ethics and Business Conduct at BAE Systems. Michael began his career in Ethics and Compliance at Integrity Interactive Corp. where, as VP of Compliance Strategy he helped develop tools and resources for compliance program management and advised clients on establishing best practice programs. He received his J.D. from the Massachusetts School of Law and his B.A. from the University of Maryland. Michael is a Fellow at the Ethics and Compliance Initiative and a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional. He resides in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife, two children, and dog, Fenway.

You can hear Michael speak at SCCE’s 16th Annual Compliance and Ethics Institute in Las Vegas presenting “Five Months to a Fantastic Code of Conduct.”

SCCE CEI 2017 Las Vegas