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Adriana  Sanford

Adriana Sanford

Award-Winning Cybersecurity & Privacy Law Expert, International GE Whistleblower, International TV Commentator, CNN Español Analyst


Adriana Sanford is an award-winning Chilean-American global privacy law and cyber law expert, educator, keynote, and international television commentator, who appears regularly as a CNN Español analyst to 49 million households in the United States and Latin America. Following an abduction while on company business, international whistleblower Dr. Adriana Sanford has distinguished herself by educating corporate executives, thousands of college students, and the public at large, on global threats and the dangers of corporate corruption. Read More >

Dr. Sanford is frequently described as “an audience grabber” and as having “the unique ability to speak to students, captains of industry, and academicians all in the same audience." With fluency in four languages, she serves as a keynote to leading think tanks, non-profits, and multinationals in the U.S. and in Latin America. Dr. Sanford provided the recent keynote to hundreds of General Counsel and senior legal leaders from Fortune 1000 companies at Corporate Counsel's 19th Annual SuperConference.  According to Editor-in-Chief of Legaltech News, “in the opening keynote of the 2019 SuperConference cybersecurity expert, Adriana Sanford, helped in-house attorneys become 'comfortable' with noncompliance and explained why open-ended questions are necessary.”  In Chile, Dr. Sanford provided keynote addresses for Corporación de Estudios para Latinoamérica (CIEPLAN), which is one of Latin America's leading think tanks.  In Mexico, she provided the opening keynote for one of the largest IT, Telecom, Technology and Security conferences in Latin America for Spanish-speaking professionals specializing in audit, security, cyber ethics, cybersecurity, governance, and IT risk.

Over the last decade, she has lectured at more than 140 industry conferences. Her one-day sessions and corporate training programs provide security, accounting, auditing, and legal professionals with CPE, ABA, and, CLE credits. She works with a broad range of global organizations to foster responsibility within the private sector and encourage foundations of trust and integrity in foreign markets including several non-profit associations, such as ISACA, ISSA, (ISC)², CSA, Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Rotary International, and the Institute for Supply Management. Recently, she provided a one-day session to internal auditors and accountants in Omaha, Nebraska through IIA’s Ak-Sar-Ben Chapter.

Dr. Sanford also provides lectures for a series of IT security conferences. She is currently scheduled to be a Featured Speaker for (ISC)² Security Congress 2019 Cybersecurity Conference in Orlando, a keynote for the 2019 LA Cyber Lab Security Summit sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and a keynote for the 2019 CSA Security Summit in Orlando.  Dr. Sanford provides high impact experiential courses featuring real-world encounters that demonstrate the complexities of open-ended situations and the severe consequences that may result from foreign jurisdiction non-compliance.

Have you ever been on a path where no path you take is the correct path? As the former in-house counsel of a Fortune 50 company, Dr. Sanford warns that legal ethics rules vary in foreign countries and sometimes conflict with domestic rules that invariably place U.S. companies, executives, and in-house counsel in the legal and moral dilemma of deciding which laws and ethical rules to follow and which to break. Her expertise is focused on global threats and laws at the international level, where possible outcomes for corporate non-compliance create criminal liability and pose potential physical danger for executives and their in-house counsel in foreign territories.

Dr. Sanford’s extensive experience addressing international organized crime and its links to corporate fraud, bribery clubs, and other forms of business malfeasance spans well over two decades, including an international drug cartel and an illegal scheme involving Russian loans that resulted in the arrest and 30-year imprisonment of her former employer’s CEO. The involved bank also supported money-laundering activities by Russian, Cuban, and, Panamanian organized crime syndicates. Over the decades she has handled multiple, complex corruption and embezzlement cases in the United States and abroad.

When the pre-Snowden whistleblower later found herself in peril for uncovering illegal schemes that went far beyond taxes, phantom shipments, and trade-based money laundering in Brazil, she diligently protected her team. Although Dr. Sanford’s most recent situation occurred slightly over a decade ago, it remains a textbook case as to why whistleblower protection laws and regulations should protect corporate in-house counsel in cases involving international criminal activity. After uncovering several illegal schemes that included U.S. senior executives’ involvement with, or knowledge of, improper conduct to circumvent U.S. sanctions in the Middle East, her life was now in danger; while on company business overseas, she was repeatedly placed in harm’s way facing bad actors that proved to be corrupt, unethical, and extremely dangerous.

An unfortunate result of being an international whistleblower was that she and one of her two senior advisors, a former University of Notre Dame Criminal Law professor and one of the main drafters of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), received a one-month sanction from a state bar more than 12 years later.  The sanction occurred despite the fact that the revelations were made due to physical safety concerns and were based on the separate advice of whistleblower counsel. Interestingly most of the information disclosed to the FBI, the US, and Brazilian regulators were never made public by the press, except for a subsequent Brazilian tax fraud matter that created criminal liability for her in the US and foreign territories, if left undisclosed.

Dr. Sanford has continued with her efforts to combat corporate corruption and international organized crime by her regular media appearances and serving on the advisory committee of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative. She has also had numerous articles published by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and the International Enforcement Law Reporter, both covering current aspects of global threats, international organized crime, and corporate ethics; with over 50,000 members in 100 countries, ISM is the largest institute in the world for supply chain leaders. In 2015, ISM adopted two of Dr. Sanford’s books (which she co-authored with Hewlett Packard’s Chief Technology Officer for EMEA, as well as an international white-collar crime enforcement attorney, Bruce Zagaris,  and other internationally recognized experts) to commemorate their centennial anniversary. The privacy and cybersecurity expert also co-authored Women in Security: Changing the Face of Technology and Innovation, a security book for the Women in Science and Engineering book series.

More recently, Dr. Sanford received the CSWY 2019 Cybersecurity Woman Law & Privacy Professional of the Year award, which to celebrates the “female cybersecurity leaders changing the world”. Inteligenca organized the gala in Las Vegas with the assistance of several tech sponsors including Platinum Sponsor Microsoft, as well as Red Carpet Sponsors Intel, Mcafee, and Adobe. The Chilean-American trailblazer has repeatedly shattered glass ceilings over the last several decades. In addition to being the first Latin American woman accepted into Georgetown Law’s dual LL.M. program, working full-time and starting a family, she was also the only dual LL.M. in her graduating class of 500 students. As a junior associate in one of the world’s largest international law firms, Dr. Sanford was the only female corporate lawyer in the firm’s Latin American Practice group. She was also one of a handful of female delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Chile, which bolsters trade and collaboration towards stronger economic growth in the Asia Pacific region by bringing together senior business leaders with the Heads of State of the 21 Pacific Rim member economies. Among her various legal roles in Miami, Dr. Sanford served as the Assistant General Counsel of a trade-finance bank, as well as external counsel for one of the largest exporters in Chile and one the largest international trading companies for the Southern cone region of Latin America. Thereafter, Dr. Sanford served in-house as a US commercial law counsel and simultaneously as Lead Counsel for Latin American for four divisions of the second-largest company in the world.

Additional leadership roles have included spearheading the formation of the Chile/US Chamber of Commerce of California, which occurred one week after the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement became effective. Dr. Sanford chaired the 30-member Board of Directors comprised of a wide spectrum of senior business leaders from major California industries after attaining the participation of the President of Chile for the inauguration. More recently, she served a two-year term on the Board of Directors of the USA section of one of the world’s largest human rights organization, Amnesty International. Carrying out significant work in the areas of public and charitable service, she has helped to strengthen the global community. Phoenix Rotary 100 made a donation in her honor to the Rotary Kenya Water Project.

Academically, her multiple law degrees from Georgetown Law and Notre Dame Law School, along with her top-tier international law firm experience, senior in-house legal roles and two decades of practical legal knowledge in real-world settings on three continents, have set her apart from other academicians and lawyers in her field. As a Georgetown Law Dean’s Visiting Scholar, Dr. Sanford taught graduate and undergraduate courses on ethical leadership at Universidad de Talca in Chile; she also has lectured on cybersecurity law and policy, international management, business law, and business ethics in the Business Schools of Pepperdine University, Loyola Marymount University, and Arizona State University, including MIM and MBA programs. In the last decade, Dr. Sanford has educated more than 7,300 graduates and undergraduates in the United States and abroad, as well as serve as Lincoln Professor of Global Corporate Compliance and Ethics for well over 80,000 ASU students, faculty, and community in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Dr. Sanford’s dedication and commitment to the global community stem from her diverse and rare multicultural upbringing. In addition to being a 14th generation Chilean of Spanish-French descent, Dr. Sanford has deep roots in Toledo and Madrid, Spain, Munich and Cologne, Germany, and St. Louis, Missouri.

She is a direct descendant of one of the first settlers of St. Louis and one of the most prominent wagon-makers, Louis Espenschied. She is also the great, great-granddaughter of the 24th mayor of St. Louis, Henry Clemens von Overstolz, and great-granddaughter German brewer Max Joseph Koeck, who engaged in the brewing business in South Bend, Indiana and thereafter had a controlling interest in the only brewery in southeastern Missouri. Her great, great-grandmother Philippine Louise Espenschied (von Overstolz) was featured in A Woman of the Century in 1893. A member of the Overstolz dynasty, Dr. Sanford is a direct descendant of one of the oldest living German families in the world.

Born in Orange County, California, Dr. Sanford is the mother of two children that she raised into adulthood.  Her son, a Caltech graduate, is obtaining his Ph.D. from UCLA. Her daughter attends UC Berkeley.

In her spare time, Dr. Sanford writes lyrical and narrative poetry.

A senior faculty and former dean stated that Dr. Sanford “brought a level of class we seldom see here at Pepperdine”. A true leader and multidimensional expert with “magnetic and suspenseful delivery”. Select Dr. Sanford as your keynote or featured speaker for any planned conference or event of significance for your firm or professional organization. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

CNN Español Demo Reel

On Data Brokers

On Cryptocurrency

On Privacy Policy

On Data Protection

Should We Care About Privacy?

Cybersecurity Woman Law & Privacy Professional of the Year Award

Speech Topics

Regulatory Divergence & the Future of Regulation

Learn how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), distributed ledger technology, and big data analytics impact global regulatory and privacy risks. The era of rapid technological change continues to create new regulatory challenges for governments. Read More >

Regulators around the globe strive to create, modify and enforce new regulations to protect national security, while machines teach themselves to learn and smart devices respond to consumer requests. Private companies partner with regulatory agencies to develop appropriate rules and regulations for emerging products and services. Read Less ^

Data Security, Data Privacy CCPA & GDPR: Complexities of Transferring Personal Data

Landmark rulings and new laws in the US and foreign territories have far-reaching implications on how personal data is being collected, stored, accessed, and used in the United States. As outsourcing and innovative technology continues to sweep the world, many small and medium-sized businesses are looking to one another for guidance on how to adapt their policies to suit the current environment and comply with Data Security, Data Privacy, upcoming CCPA, GDPR and variations therefrom.

Global Threats, Corporate Exposure, Ransom Demands & National Security Risks

Learn how to build awareness and develop guiding principles to combat global threats and navigate through the critical challenges in the age of terrorism. Product counterfeiting and human trafficking sabotage global supply chains, create barriers to corporate profitability, and endanger national security interests. The expectation that a ransom payment can be reimbursed sometimes facilitates the payment by executives; paying ransoms for cyber-attacks, however, fuels terrorist activity and encourages further attacks.

Senior Executive & Corporate Exposure in Foreign Territories: Surviving the New Security Landscape

Significant progress has occurred through the sharing of practices and lessons learned. Consistent legislation in geopolitical areas, however, is not always available. Learn how to ethically protect your company and your team against non-compliance when US laws does not mesh with foreign laws, as decisions may carry personal criminal liability or have strong repercussions on a global scale. Executives need clear guidance as to the way forward when the US and foreign governments fail to endorse consistent principles in the new security landscape.

Will Blockchain Technology Change the World?

Blockchain technology is transforming businesses around the globe. Learn why countries react differently to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.