Dak Kees comes from a family of storytellers.
“My grandfather was one of those people who could tell a story for half an hour and mesmerize a whole room,” says Kees, the chief counsel of global investigations and regulatory compliance at Tyson Foods. “Then, next Christmas, he could tell the same story and still have everyone on the seat of their pants, just listening.”
Kees is like that too. As he reflects on his decades-long career, you can’t help but hang onto every word. It’s not just because he’s had a decorated career filled with interesting stories from serving as a presidentially appointed US attorney or as a litigator. It’s because of his ability to build a rapport with anyone he meets—a skill that has driven his career success and makes him the perfect fit for his role at Tyson, where he’s the primary source of guidance for investigations, risk mitigation, and matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
In his role, he’s helped create an enterprise-wide investigative process to assess and respond to complex regulatory issues that has strengthened the bond between his team and company leadership. It’s also cultivated trust between his team and the various parties impacted by investigations, whether they be witnesses, defendants, or other key stakeholders.
For Kees, a successful investigation and career can be measured by the strength of one’s relationships. “I believe that the greatest asset someone can have is their connections,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times my path in life has changed for the better because someone I was good friends with was in a position to help me out.”
Time and time again, that wisdom has rang true along his career journey. After a successful nine years in the US Army that instilled in him a passion for learning, discipline, prosecution, and defense work, Kees and his wife wanted to settle down and have a family. When they returned to their home in Arkansas, he ran into a friend from law school who set up a law firm with his father.
“I told him that I was getting out of the army, we had a meal and by the end of it, they offered me a job,” he recalls. Kees went on to work at the Asa Hutchinson Law Group for four years litigating over thirty federal and state jury trials with a focus on criminal defense, military-international law, personal injury, and real estate. While at the firm, he learned the importance maintaining a positive attitude and never getting rattled under pressure.
“Nothing bothered Asa,” he says. “He experienced a lot of things in his forty-year career, and he learned from every one of his mistakes. From watching him, I knew if you wanted to be the best lawyer, you had to put yourself in situations where you’re going to learn something.”
Kees took that knowledge to Walmart, where he served as the director of global ethics and compliance, responsible for managing investigations and implementing remedial efforts. He stayed in that role three years when a friend called him up a month after the 2016 presidential election.
“I asked him who he thought they would appoint for the US Attorney for the Western District, and he suggested that I throw my name in the hat,” he remembers. Though Kees felt satisfied in his role at Walmart, he says his friend’s suggestion stuck with him. He thought and prayed about it and eventually decided to pursue it.
“I never thought that I was going to get it but a year later, I’m in Washington, DC, meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in this huge conference room, where at the end of it, they shake my hand and say, ‘Welcome to the team,’” he remembers. “I was not expecting that at all.”
His two years at the US Attorney’s office were spent on leading an office of over fifty attorneys and supporting staff in representing the government in federal court. He also focused on white-collar crime, terrorism, and national security matters. “I got insight into how the Department of Justice views the prosecution side when it comes to corporate America,” he says. “Being in those conversations was eye-opening.”
He brought that insight to Tyson in 2020, where he’s helped the company expand its investigation team while beefing up training efforts for his team members.
Kees advises young attorneys to be open to opportunities, force themselves to constantly learn, and make friends along the way. “You want to spend time learning your craft, but don’t forget to cultivate relationships,” he says. “You’ll be shocked by how much they will help.”