It was a landmark moment for the corporate compliance community: Roy Snell, co-founder and longtime chief executive of the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics, bid his farewell from SCCE Monday at the group’s annual conference in Las Vegas.

Snell announced his retirement 16 months ago, and his successor Gerry Zack has already been learning the ropes for a year. Today was Snell’s final appearance at the SCCE conference, which he has hosted every year since the group was founded in 2004. He also co-founded the Healthcare Compliance Association before that in 1996, too. His last day as CEO is Nov. 1.

More than 1,700 compliance professionals are at the SCCE conference, and they gave Snell a much-deserved standing ovation when he delivered his farewell remarks.

 

“I’ve been sitting in the eye of this storm for 22 years, and I’ve had a unique and bizarre view of you people,” Snell said, to laughter in the audience and with his family looking on. “I’ve seen what you’ve all done individually, and I had a great opportunity to see what you’ve done collectively.”

What has SCCE done collectively? Today membership stands at 20,000, with 7,200 people holding the Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional designation. Plus SCCE conferences in the United States and Europe, plus dozens of local chapter conferences and compliance academies all over the world.

That’s what this group has done collectively, with Snell there hanging out and helping every step of the way. Bravo.

Snell then went on.

“Sometime in the next five years, one of you is going to prevent the next Enron and people aren’t going to lose their pension. Sometime in the next year, someone who is abusing people will be stopped in their tracks, not 10 years later. Sometime in the next week, one of you will stop an otherwise good person from going down the wrong path.”

 

Those are just the specific ways that individual compliance officers can help improve the world. Snell didn’t miss the big picture, either.

“Compliance professionals create trust in companies,” he said. “Trust in companies creates trust in countries. Trusted countries are more successful in the global economy. Countries that are successful in the global economy increase the standard of living for the lives of their people. You are all part of something that is very, very big.”

That’s what corporate ethics and compliance is really about — fighting corruption, because corruption “kills the lives, the economy, and the standard of living for people all over the world.”

Snell gets it. I stand with him. I suspect just about everyone else in this profession does too.

Then came the end.

“I tried to give back as much as I got from this profession. I failed,” Snell said. “You are who you hang around with all day. I’m a better person for having hung around you people—”

—and with a wave, Snell stepped away.

 

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