As a federal prosecutor at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey (USAO), Joseph Mack faced criminals of all types. However, when transitioning in-house to work for Bayer as senior assistant general counsel, compliance and investigations, he faced an entirely different kind of challenge.
“I don’t know if it was a learning curve or a learning cliff,” Mack jokes. “It was that steep.”
Over five years later, Mack certainly found his footing. He advises internal stakeholders from Bayer’s pharmaceuticals, crop science, and consumer health businesses on a wide variety of legal and compliance matters. The lawyer credits his success to leveraging his crucial internal relationships and employing his previous legal expertise.
Mack started his career at the esteemed international law firm White & Case, advising clients in corporate defense matters. “I also did a lot of pro bono work for indigent defendants, whom we were appointed to represent through the Criminal Justice Act [CJA],” he explains. “That was my first true exposure to what federal criminal practice was like.”
Working on the CJA panel sparked Mack’s interest in the other side of the courtroom. After five years at White & Case and then Linklaters, he landed a position with the USAO and spent the next decade as a federal prosecutor.
“It was an awesome responsibility to work with agents and paralegals to help build a case and use prosecutorial discretion to achieve justice,” he says. “I got the opportunity to represent the United States as a trial attorney—and that was my dream in law school.”
During that time, Joseph Mack gravitated toward healthcare. As a member of the healthcare fraud unit, he prosecuted individuals and corporations for not only healthcare fraud but also violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Beyond developing an industry specialization, he helped shape the USAO’s future by supervising its newest prosecutors. Additionally, Mack supervised more seasoned prosecutors in the healthcare fraud unit and helped run the law intern program. All of these experiences provided him perspective on the future.
“When thinking about transitioning from the USAO, I looked inward and asked myself what I really liked doing,” Mack says. “I realized I enjoyed counseling: providing advice, identifying risks, and problem solving.”
Inspired by his interactions with a corporate monitor team, Mack landed on compliance. His healthcare background made him the perfect fit for an opening at Bayer, and the rest is history.
“I took a bit of a gamble switching to in-house because I got out of my comfort zone. I was a litigator for fifteen years, and now I try to build relationships and provide counsel in a totally new environment,” Mack says. “Every day I draw on my prior experiences to help my internal clients navigate their work in highly regulated industries subject to intense enforcement oversight.”
While getting acclimated to Bayer, Mack took concrete steps to become a real partner to his business colleagues. “There used to be these imagined barriers between compliance and the businesses, but we’ve broken them down in the past several years,” he says. “In a compliance role, those relationships are integral to our success.”
Mack explains it’s important to him to get to know his internal clients in different settings, including on the basketball court. “We have regular basketball games in our gym at Bayer,” he explains. “Connecting with colleagues in the gym helps build trust and a bridge to partnership when we are back at our desks.”
To foster relationships internally, Mack and his compliance colleagues hold regular meetings with various stakeholders. “I always try to explain the ‘why’ behind my reasoning,” he adds. “I learned early on in the transition in-house it’s not enough just to give people the policy. You have to explain to them why the policy exists, and what it means for them.”
Another trust-building strategy he uses with internal clients simply involves having a conversation—and not over email. “You have to listen first,” he emphasizes. “Many times, a problem could be the result of a misinterpretation of previous guidance.”
Mack also relies on external relationships, especially regarding complex internal investigations. “We pride ourselves on handling investigations ourselves. But in certain resource-intensive cases, we hire outside counsel, often using a former colleague from my USAO days, Scott McBride of Lowenstein Sandler,” he says.
Whether leading an investigation, responding to a government inquiry, or counseling on fraud, risk, or abuse matters, Mack knows a good day’s work. “If Bayer colleagues feel they can come to me with something confidential or seek me out because they trust my judgment,” he says, “then I’ve done my job.”
Joseph Mack on Success and Failure
“If you can balance your outside interests with having a fulfilling job and spending time with your family and friends, that gives you some measure of success,” Joseph Mack says.
A lifelong basketball fan, Joseph Mack draws on a hoops analogy when asked to describe failure. “John Wooden said ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,’” Mack says. “When it comes to facing challenges, if you don’t put in the necessary effort to prepare, you’ve failed, no matter what it is you’re trying to do.”