Partnerships of Trust: Katie Lawler Banks on Ethics to Create Wins for the Business

"We’re not here to plunk down an ethics program on top of the company. What we needed to do, and what we wanted to do was to partner particularly with HR but also others in the company, and to help bring an ethics lens to what they were already doing, to help make it better."

Katie Lawler

This episode of the Principled podcast is hosted by Ben DiPietro, editor of LRN’s E&C Pulse newsletter, who is interviewing Katie Lawler, global chief ethics officer at U.S. Bank. Most companies will have ethics and compliance as a combined function, but U.S. Bank has a large risk management and compliance department, with ethics sitting under human resources. 

U.S. Bank saw an opportunity to elevate ethics to a standalone function to build on the company’s strength. Lawler discusses how she transitioned into the newly created role, how she clearly defined business unit roles, and how she gives partners latitude and freedom to do their best work.



guest katie lawler headshot

Katie Lawler is the senior vice president and global chief ethics officer at U.S. Bank. Her role and the office she oversees was created in January 2017 to provide a singular focus on cultivating and maintaining the company’s culture of ethics. 

Lawler previously was deputy general counsel in the bank's law division, and was responsible for legal teams focused on employment and labor; technology and operations; cybersecurity; and privacy and data governance. Before that, she served in a variety of roles in human resources; Lawler joined U.S. Bank in 2002 as an employment attorney.

She founded the U.S. Bank Employee Assistance Fund, and the award-winning Proud to Serve program. U.S. Bank has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute for five consecutive years.  

Lawler is a member of the board of trustees of Wallin Education Partners, serves on the Finance Advisory Committee for the St. Louis Park Public Schools, and is a member of the Human Resources Advisory Committee of Fraser. She is a licensed attorney with a Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice University.



  • [0:54] What was the career path that led to her current role at U.S. Bank?

  • [2:30] Was she happy to be the first chief ethics officer, or did she wish there already was a structure in place?

  • [6:00] How did her background in human resources help her transition into her new role?

  • [7:09] One of her first tasks was to work with her former HR colleagues; did that change her relationship with them? What were some of the issues she had to deal with?

  • [9:13] What are some ways ethics and compliance people can foster closer relationships with other business units?

  • [11:55] Has her successful partnerships resulted in other business units taking notice, and has it changed her relationships with them?

  • [13:18] How can ethics and compliance better articulate to boardrooms that companies that behave better perform better?

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