Meeting (and Missing) Jim McGrath, Fearless Warrior

Meeting (and Missing) Jim McGrath, Fearless Warrior

Donna Boehme – Compliance & Ethics Professional – January 2015

jim-mcgrath

In October, our community, the dynamic and rapidly evolving compliance and ethics profession, lost one of its stars and fearless warriors, Jim McGrath. Jim didn’t come to us by the typical route, a stint or two as a chief compliance officer (with the scars on his back to prove it) but as a former prosecutor, internal investigations expert, and influential blogger. As the former head of a federally funded narcotics task force, Jim was a clear-eyed observer and fresh voice of expertise in our community, with more than 3500(!) criminal and ethics investigations to his credit. Already our community has produced several heartfelt tributes to Jim, including these from Tom Fox, Ben di Pietro, and Matt Kelly. To these I add my own small story about how I met the multitalented and fabulous Jim McGrath.

I’ve seen Jim described alternatively by those who loved and admired him as a “gentle giant,” “a bear of a man,” and “my inspiration.” All so true, but to me, Jim was a force of nature. I met Jim when he called me in June 2013, out of the blue, to give me some animated comments about my just-published Corporate Counsel column on a favorite topic—the “rogue employee” as the corporate equivalent of the childhood “the dog ate my homework” excuse and the antithesis of accountability. Thus ensued our first conversation about the field and Jim’s observations of it, which I found to be fresh, unique, and insightful. Yes, Jim was a force of nature. How many others, upon reading a column they like, pick up the phone and call the author directly, with questions? Of course, as a columnist it is delightful to hear from a reader that they found some useful takeaways from your work, never more delightful than that June call from Hurricane Jim! Then, as our email friendship evolved, I casually invited Jim to stop by to see me on his next trip to the New York area, which is how later that month I found myself with Jim McGrath, the man himself, in my living room, trading hilarious stories of college days and traveling via fast train in China. I love learning from being around smart people,and Jim had the agile, analytical mind of a former prosecutor, and something else too, the courage, assurance and loyalty of a fearless warrior. And now my heart aches, because (and I’ve said this before) our profession needs its fearless warriors!

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