We offer an innovative Ethics and Fiduciary Counseling practice that is distinguished by the legal services we provides and the experience of the attorneys who provide these services. Our lawyers have experience as in-house counsel to major public pension funds, as well as outside counsel to pension fund clients, which allows them to offer unique perspectives for guidance on fiduciary responsibility, ethical duties, governance, compliance issues and related organizational mandates. We also develop and implement customized ethics and fiduciary training programs, and assist in conducting internal investigations and with the structuring of the resulting recommendations.
The practice is led by Suzanne M. Dugan, former Special Counsel for Ethics to the New York State Comptroller, and previously General Counsel and Acting Executive Director for the New York State Ethics Commission. Jay Chaudhuri, former General Counsel and Chief Policy Adviser to the North Carolina Treasurer and chair of the Council of Institutional Investors and now a state senator in North Carolina, provides additional in-house and national perspective to the practice. Luke Bierman, formerly the General Counsel to the New York State Comptroller and now Dean and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law, advises the practice group as Of Counsel at the firm. Also assisting the practice is Raymond Sarola, former Senior Policy Advisor & Counsel in the Mayor's Office of the City of New York. Mr. Sarola served as a trustee-designee on four of New York City’s defined-benefit pension plan boards and its deferred compensation plan (401k) board.
These four experts were involved with almost half a trillion dollars of pension investments and bring that in-house gravitas to their ethics and fiduciary practice. They have dealt with issues that are common to all pension funds as well as myriad crises, all of which combine to provide the kind of experience and perspective that serves clients uniquely well. Notably, Ms. Dugan and Mr. Bierman’s experience includes providing counsel to the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund during a critical period of reform. Mr. Chaudhuri likewise led the North Carolina Treasurer’s Office through its own investigation that led to significant process improvements. Finally, Mr. Sarola as trustee-designate dealt with all legal and policy aspects of board decision-making, including oversight of investment managers, investment policies, divestment issues, legal compliance issues, corporate governance initiatives, securities litigation, and changes to actuarial assumptions and methods.
Also assisting the practice is Laura Posner, who joined the firm after service as the Bureau Chief for the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, the top securities regulator for the State of New Jersey. In that capacity, she was responsible for administrating and enforcing the New Jersey Uniform Securities Law and regulations. As Bureau Chief, Ms. Posner collaborated extensively with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and other state attorneys general and securities regulators.
Our experience combines the understanding of an in-house counsel, the broad perspective of a regulator, and the expertise of an academic on fiduciary, ethics and governance issues. Read more about our experience with pension fund, government, and law firm clients below.
We work closely with public pension plans across the country, providing fiduciary counsel, compliance counsel, and ethics counsel. Our attorneys help funds navigate changing economic conditions and organizational challenges, advising on issues relating to governance matters and management of investment portfolios. Our team also provides fiduciary training and education for pension fund trustees and staff.
Some of our pension fund clients have included:
- Arlington County Employees’ Retirement System
- California State Teachers’ Retirement System
- Charlotte Firefighters' Retirement System
- Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association
- New York City Employees’ Retirement System
- New York State Teachers’ Retirement System
- North Carolina Department of State Treasurer
- Pennsylvania School Employees’ Retirement Board
- Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement Board
- San Antonio Fire & Police Pension Fund
- State of Connecticut Office of the Treasurer
- Teacher Retirement System of Texas
- Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York
- Wyoming Retirement System
We have advised a number of state and municipal entities on government ethics matters, providing independent, objective analysis. Our attorneys have served as the designated ethics officer for some municipalities and as ethics counsel to others, providing ethics opinions, investigating and evaluating ethics complaints, drafting codes of ethics, and training government officers and employees on best practices for ensuring ethical conduct.
Our government clients have included:
- Adams County, Colorado
- City of Bellevue, Washington
- City of Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Town of Clarkstown, New York
- City of Rye, New York
- Washington State Auditor
We advise law firms on complex ethics issues. In particular, we provide additional oversight and accountability for law firms retained to conduct an investigation or other review, recommending appropriate governance and structural reforms for public pension plans as well as other governmental entities.
COMPREHENSIVE LEGAL SUPPORT FROM COMPLEMENTARY PRACTICES
The Ethics and Fiduciary Counseling practice draws upon the valuable expertise and resources of the firm’s related practice areas, including Employee Benefits/ERISA, Public Client, Qui Tam, Securities Litigation & Investor Protection, and Antitrust, in order to counsel clients on the full range of matters implicated when considering ethics and fiduciary issues.
For example, the Qui Tam practice and the Ethics and Fiduciary practice are currently collaborating on a potential matter involving the financial industry. In addition, the Ethics and Fiduciary practice takes advantage of a natural synergy with the Employee Benefits practice group, the head of which was an attorney with the United States Department of Labor where she litigated ERISA cases for over 25 years. Building on her expertise in the ERISA world of non-governmental employers, the two practice groups have collaborated on fiduciary training for boards of public pension plans.