Cheryl House Helps Adobe Employees and Menlo College Students Stay Ethical in the Workplace

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A global view, a sensitivity for human resources, and a keen understanding of the nuances of ethics are part of the job for Cheryl House, at Adobe for nearly 19 years.

House was an anthropology major in college, which proved to be a great foundation for her in international business. Studying different cultures taught her about social dynamics and the relativity of different approaches and perspectives for understanding what is “right.” While taking a class about radically different cultures that studied the legal systems of China, Botswana, and the US, she decided she wanted to continue with her education and get a law degree.

After graduating from Hastings Law School, House spent a year as a law clerk in the high court of American Samoa. After returning to the California, she started out in a Palo Alto law firm, where she for five years as a corporate securities attorney she worked on public offerings, and merger and acquisition deals.

She realized she preferred to focus on understanding individual companies rather than continuing to focus on a variety of companies at a law firm, and soon she found a position that allowed her to move in that direction at Adobe, a company that sells software such as Creative Cloud.

House spent 14 years as the lead employment attorney for Adobe, doing a blend of corporate securities and HR. Her duties soon expanded to anti-piracy enforcement, then privacy efforts and executive compensation. In 2012, Adobe, a company with a high ethical reputation, took on seven acquisitions. After the huge volume of working out the kinks of the new employee changes, House decided to move her focus to compliance. Since 2013, she has been Chief Compliance Officer at Adobe.

In compliance, she examines potential ethical issues regarding bribery, compensation, conflict of interest, and fraudulent purchase orders, asking “Is it right or is it legal?” She also offers training for commissioned sales employees, who are particularly vulnerable to conflicts of interest, and the antitrust issues that go along with that. A recent example of a sales-related concern is the Wells Fargo incident, in which 5,300 people were fired after creating accounts to meet sales targets without customer permission.

House is guided by company core values, the first of which is being “genuine,” meaning acting with respect and integrity, and following Adobe code of conduct training. “Taking action makes the difference,” she said. “People become disheartened if they report problems, and nothing happens.”

House’s recent visit to Menlo College was sponsored by the Business Ethics Club, with support from the Student Government Association, and the Ethics in Action Research & Education Center. Her presentation was a part of the Business Ethics in Action Speaker Series, a program that welcomes professional experts to Menlo College to share their experiences and insight around ethics and corporate social responsibility with business students, encouraging them to do well and do good.