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After joining Home Depot, Inc., AS general counsel three years ago, Frank Fernandez’s first order of business was to do a comprehensive corporate risk assessment of everyday business practices. Why? Fernandez realized Home Depot had some glaring potential liabilities. What if home product installers weren’t properly licensed and insured? Or if store construction managers weren’t up to snuff on local building laws? Following the review, Home Depot allocated $2 million annually for compliance programs, which aim to protect the superstore chain’s more than 1,500 stores from regulators and consumer lawsuits. No detail is too insignificant, and store managers know that someone’s watching. Each location has a progress monitoring dashboard, which flashes yellow and red danger signals on a device resembling a traffic signal to the 14 compliance officers who report to Fernandez in Atlanta. For this, he has won legions of admirers, from competitors to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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